Business Today

It's all about being local

Google Local isn't yet quite there, but it is bound to improve.

By Kushan Mitra        Print Edition: Sept 23, 2007

A few months ago, this column looked at the rise of a few local internet services in India. We were impressed by Burrp.com, a social reviewing site, which has grown beyond Mumbai and Bangalore and added Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad.

There was also Yahoo! Ourcities, which also impressed and now features more than 35 Indian cities, and there was Guruji.com, a local search engine. But now, the internet leviathan that is Google is getting into the local game as well and has introduced a "local" search for India at http://local.google.co.in.

So, how is it? Frankly, not bad. It is a two-string search engine; so, if you want to find a Domino's Pizza, you should also specify where in the second search box. The second box is quite useful if you want a specific location for a food chain. The problem is that Google Local couldn't find the store for me, and to rub it in, Guruji could. Sometimes, you just want a greasy slice of pizza.

That said, this service from Google is still quite new and Guruji has been around a lot longer and, therefore, has a better index. Also, the latter site has a tie-up with an information service provider.

Though both services are technically still "Beta", one clearly is ahead on the learning curve. Also, Google is not confident enough to integrate these search results onto its main search results page, something it has done in other markets.

However, only a brave man will bet against Google. While the Google Local search engine has a long way to go, the internet giant will get its act together here as it did with e-mail. Despite the glut of new e-mail services and the huge number of advertisements taken out by various providers, Gmail still works a lot better than any other service, anywhere in the world.

Windows in your hand

HP's new iPAQ 512 voice messenger is a very affordable Windows Mobile enterprise device, coming in at around Rs 11,800 including taxes. But somehow, operating a Windows Mobile 6 device on a 12-key keypad is not something that you get used to easily, especially if you're used to other devices.

Some people might like typing on these devices, but text messaging is one thing, composing documents and e-mails is something altogether different and a full keyboard with all its formatting options does make life a lot easier on an enterprise device.

While the iPaq is a smart device and has very good battery life, the form factor is not something one would expect from a Windows Mobile device. Given that full-fledged qwerty-keyboard Windows Mobile devices are available from a host of other manufacturers from Rs 15,000 onwards, buying this device might not be a great idea from a user experience point of view; the small screen works well on certain types of devices, but on this one, it just doesn't.

Sure, the 'voice reply' feature is great to have, but the voice recognition software has some way to go yet. However, if you are looking to enable your executives with e-mail on the go, this conveniently small device is not a bad thing to start people off with.

-Kushan Mitra

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