AOL plans to unveil a number of new mobile services including the customizable MyAOL for mobile phones as well as a redesigned AOL.com portal page for mobile phones.
The beta version of the mobile portal has been available since September but is now being formally introduced, said Scott Falconer, executive vice president of AOL Mobile. The portal includes the type of news, entertainment and sports content that is available on the desktop version of the portal.
In addition, it features AOL's mobile search technology that returns tailored results for mobile users. For example, if a mobile user searches for a music artist, the first results may be ringtones. In addition, AOL's search crawls an index of sites designed for mobile use, so it will return those sites near the top of the list.
The search results will now include paid listings. That addition started last week, said Falconer.
AOL is also announcing that MyAOL, the customizable home page, will be available to mobile users. People will get access to the same MyAOL they build in their regular PC browsers.
Other new mobile services from AOL will include a shopping service that lets users enter a barcode number or product name and receive comparative prices for the product at various retailers, as well as contact and location information for the retailer.
AOL is also launching a downloadable client called MyMobile. Initially available only on Windows Mobile devices, MyMobile is designed to offer an easy way for users to download and use AOL services of their choice, such as mail, MapQuest and CityGuide, within a single application on the phone.
AOL isn't alone among internet services and content companies pursuing mobile users. So far, none seems to have a clear advantage. "I would say it's still an open market," said Falconer. "Google of course is the leader in online search but mobile search is fundamentally different." In addition to the online giants, a number of startups are targeting the mobile search and content market.
AOL has two reasons for offering mobile services, including as a way to maintain loyalty among its existing user base and as a way to grow its advertising business, Falconer said. Analysts are predicting large growth in mobile advertising and AOL hopes to establish a foothold in the market, he said.