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Microsoft Buys Mobile Search Company

Microsoft came late to desktop search; it doesn’t intend to make the same mistake with mobile search. The company announced Monday that it has bought MotionBridge, a French maker of "mobile search" technology. The press release didn’t say how much Microsoft paid for the company.

MotionBridge is a search engine for small screens like PDAs or cell phones. Its proposition is that normal search engines don’t list search results optimized for cellphone-sized displays -- they're too small for large lists of results, typing in keywords is tedious, and result descriptions won’t fit on a screen. MotionBridge simplifies tasks, saving time and effort.

It would be hard to say that mobile search is a "hot" technology right now, but most of the major players have some form of it in use, or have plans in the works. Google, for instance, has Google Short Message Service (SMS), which lets a user send a query through a cellphone browser -- say, for a restaurant -- and get a text message answer listing the restaurant’s name, address and phone number, but no link.

Yahoo! has a similar service, but also has a more MotionBridge-like service called Yahoo! Search on Mobile. Both the Yahoo! and MotionBridge offerings are more like a severely streamlined Web browsing experience. The search engine Ask Jeeves is also rumored to be jumping into the mobile search space.

Now with MotionBridge in the fold, Microsoft has a foothold in another aspect of search. It’s also beefing up its search capabilities in Vista, the next-generation operating system, still scheduled for release late this year. Microsoft has been a step or two behind Google in search technology, something even CEO Steve Ballmer has admitted. This latest play may help it pull even, at least in the mobile search market.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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