Yahoo reports that China Mobile, (the country's largest mobile carrier) is in talks with Google to provide an internet search engine for mobile services in China. It's worth noting that China's internet users numbered 111 million by the end of 2005, as reported by eMarketer.
In related news, Japanese Internet and telecom group Softbank has reached an agreement with Britain's Vodafone to develop new mobile handsets, software and content. Both companies will spend about $50 million to turn around the struggling local Japanese unit of Vodafone, which Softbank recently purchased for $15 billion, and will rename "Softbank Mobile." At the top of the agenda is providing mobile users around the world with access to sports footage, games, movies and music.
Why does any of this matter? Because it's a clear sign that mobile Internet usage and mobile search are creeping towards the front lines of Internet business. While the value of mobile search has yet to be fully understood, and China and Japan may be unlikely targets for your business, it's worth noting the advances. For anyone that owns a website or runs an Internet-based business, this is news worth keeping an eye on. Mobile search and marketing will provide yet another consumer base. Local marketers and Web businesses would be wise to begin planning for the future.