In addition to offering voice mobile search, which Tellme announced last month, it gives you a way of search for business listings using SMS texting or mobile Web. Tellme gives business listings, maps, phone numbers and driving directions. See images below.
If you use the voice service, which you do by calling 1-800-555-TELL and just saying “business search,” you can get the results visually. If you text, you send your request to TELLM (83556). Finally, you can download the mobile application at http://www.tellme.com (or http://m.tellme.com from your mobile phone.)
Of course, with Microsoft just announcing its acquisition of Tellme, this gives Microsoft a response to Google’s mobile 411 service, launched just last week. It also puts renewed pressure on independent players, such as 4Info.
Tim O’Reilly, the co-owner of the Web 2.0 conference who has also studied the world of data closely, says these efforts are more than they appear at the surface. It’s also about the data:
In short, I’m speculating that the 1-800-GOOG-411 service is designed to harvest voice data to build Google’s own speech database, rather than licensing from Nuance or another player.
If I’m right about this, we see here another demonstration of my Web 2.0 principle that “data is the Intel Inside”, and that many of the future battles between industry giants will be around who owns data, rather than who controls software APIs. In that battle, we’ll see deployed all kinds of techniques to “harness collective intelligence” to build added value databases of various kinds.