TellMe has launched the first step in what may well be a very important new era in mobile search – Tellme by Mobile. TechCrunch covers it here. I got to play with this in early beta, and it is really impressive. A caveat – TellMe is an FM advertiser, and I agreed to give them my unvarnished input as part of TellMe’s FM program (they have a feedback forum on the new product, a very good idea, here).
As I opined for three years, I’ve been waiting for a mobile app that finally uses voice to drive search on the go. This could be it. For now, it’s just the equivalent of Yellow Pages 411, but if this works the implications are clear – the underlying voice recogniction technology paired with very smart structured search could be a killer app. It’s a little odd getting used to a voice-command-based local search experience, and the system does not always work, but then again, neither does text-based search.
But here’s why I think TellMe is well positioned – this java app is carrier independent. Let me say that again – carrier independent. Now that is a breakthrough.
Won’t someone like Yahoo or Google just buy Tellme, and swallow it? Could be, but the price will be dear. The company has nine-figure revenues, is profitable, and has a very respected leader in Mike McCue, who I have stayed in touch with for over a decade. Mike has really stayed true to his original vision of voice-driven telephony (you most likely use his stuff if you call information, which I am sure you do). He’s seen the ups and downs of the past ten years, and he’s built an impressive set of IP assets, including a huge database of phonemes (basic word parts) and related associations. His company is clearly on an IPO track – another thing that makes it unique – and I for one am thrilled for him.