When it comes to data and content services, mobile operators' efforts are driven by control, whether it's walled gardens or restrictive terms of service. In many cases, operators seek to lock things down and try to force, or at the very least, steer users to content and services from providers with whom they have a commercial relationship. In other words, users don't get the best content, they get content that pays the operators the most. This sort of money-first, users-second mentality would seem to be one of the reasons operators haven't been more successful at growing their data revenues. Slowly, this is starting to change, as some operators realize that to get people to use the mobile internet, they need to make it cheap and easy, and deliver the best experience possible at a fair price. But still, the desire for control lives on: a group of operators are now apparently hatching a secret plot to create their own mobile search engine to lessen their dependence on Google and Yahoo, two companies that have signed a bunch of deals with operators. The operators have been listening to all the hype surrounding mobile search -- hype that's nowhere near being justified -- and think this is a way they can wring more money out of it. That's a key point: they're not doing this to build a better search engine, or one that delivers a better user experience; they just think they can make more money. Again, this is the tail wagging the dog. Improving the user experience and delivering better and easier-to-use services to customers will grow revenues. Building a user-unfriendly search engine that puts commerce over useful content won't help, since users are resistant to paid search results. If a search engine keeps spitting out bad search results laden with pointers to things like content for sale, rather than the information users want, regardless of its source, people won't use it. Of course, the operators have an easy solution to that: lock down the phones and make it the only search engine they can access.
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