Friday, September 23, 2011

Start-Up Watch COD: Doat remakes the mobile search experience

Most people agree that the most useful and pleasant mobile experiences occur in apps, not on  mobile-appropriate web pages. Apps have been the key to iPhone’s ascendance on domination in smart phones, and they have also propelled Android ahead of venerable competitors like Blackberry and Nokia’s Symbian. More apps means more market share, broadly speaking. Few or no apps = death in today’s smart phone environment.
But Mobile Search was singularly focused on finding the best content on web pages. At least it was until now.
Doat (say Doh-At) is an Israel- and San Francisco-based start-up focused on transforming mobile search by querying and providing results from apps rather than the web. When you search for a term in Do@, what you get in response is a sort of visual menu of app screen shots housing content appropriate to your request.
So what does that mean?
 If you want information or the trailer on Hangover 2, an ordinary mobile search result might refer you to the web site, which may or may not have a mobile version. With Doat, you get screen shots of the IMDB , Flixster, and other theatrically oriented apps. Tapping a particular result takes you to a version of the app delivered in HTML 5, essentially a web page but with the appearance and functionality of an app. This “page” simulates the functionality of the fully functioning app, and enables you to experience all of its benefits.
Here’s the vid:
Because app viewing experiences are designed for the small screen, there is a high degree of likelihood that your overall experience as well as info access will be better through an app. Additionally, because the user does not actually have to download the app before they review the content, Doat actually offers a powerful trial mechanism for app developers anxious to get more users, and for users to try before they buy
Because so much mobile search has a local component, Doat takes your location into consideration when you make your query. So, for instance, if you are looking for a restaurant recommendation nearby, the app will connect you to location-focused results in the Yelp app and the like.
I think this is a big deal for digital and for brands. For digital, it is, perhaps, a really positive harbinger of  a broader revolution in mobile user experience. I believe the figures are that mobile web access will surpass PC web access in about 2013 in the US – it already has in several Asian countries. But in order for Mobile Internet to deliver on its promise, basic connected utilities need to evolve experientially to be OPTIMIZED for the handset. Since Search is arguably the most ubiquitous such utility, Doat is an important step in the mobile transformation of the web.
From a marketing standpoint, the app-centric nature of Doat may be a reason for many marketers to rethink their mobile advertising and marketing strategies, opting for a greater presence in the world of apps. While it is too soon to tell how much app usage will come from Doat or its future imitators, it is plain that we’ll need to take a serious look at those figures as they materialize.
Doat has made its debut as an iPhone app, and is available for free in the App Store.

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