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Google Emerges as a Mobile Superpower

By Jason Ankeny

It always seemed a foregone conclusion that Google would assume the mantle of mobile search kingpin, but as the sheer scope of its wireless aspirations took shape throughout 2008, it's become increasingly clear just how significantly the web services giant will shape the future of the entire platform.

Google's mobile fortunes hinge on Android, of course--first announced in late 2007, the Linux-based open software platform boasts the stated goal of "fostering innovation on mobile devices and giving consumers a far better user experience than much of what is available on today's mobile platforms," and the autumn release of T-Mobile USA's G1, the first Android-powered device, was unquestionably the most eagerly anticipated handset debut of the year.

In addition, Google unveiled its Android Market application storefront, expanded its partnership with Sprint, introduced a slew of new mobile applications and even threw its considerable weight behind the campaign to secure public access to unlicensed white-space spectrum for broadband wireless services.

But for each and every move that Google made in mobile, it kept its eye on one prize: The potential advertising windfall tied to mobile search results. During an August appearance on CNBC's Mad Money, Google CEO Eric Schmidt even said he believes mobile advertising revenues will eventually outstrip traditional web advertising. "Over time we will make more money from mobile advertising," Schmidt told Mad Money host Jim Cramer. "Not now, but over time."

Speaking on an earnings call after Google reported third quarter revenues of $5.54 billion--a 31 percent year-over-year jump--Schmidt added that the company plans to continue investing in future growth areas such as enterprise, mobile, and display despite the freefalling economy. "We are seeing an explosion in mobile search volumes," he added. "This is being enabled by devices with more powerful browsers. The compound growth rate is one of the fastest growing things at the company."

And while Google failed to lock down a rumored mobile search partnership with Verizon Wireless, it did ink deals with handset titan Nokia and web browsing firm Opera Software, and later promised platform-wide Android search integration. It's no surprise that at mid-year, Google held a 61 percent share of the mobile search market, followed by Yahoo with 18 percent and MSN with 5 percent. [FierceMobileContent]

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