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Well, it looks like Google got enough samples. 1-800-GOOG-411 is shutting down in a couple of weeks. I don't think you'll miss it, and neither will Google.
Big G has put those millions of voice searches to good use on the Android platform. Voice-based phone number searches with automatic connection have become an integral part of the Android experience, and that technology is constructed from statistical analysis of the 411 data. It's such a good idea that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) had to copy the "free 411" idea for Bing. Perhaps we'll see the fruits of that less-heralded effort in the upcoming Windows Phone 7 launch.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) decided to forgo the data-collection route; it simply bought voice search specialist Siri this spring. I don't know whether that acquisition has been worked into iPhone's voice commands yet, but the standard voice dialer seems to handle your contact list and spoken numbers, instead of running a yellow-pages search. In the meantime, Google's technology is available in the form of an app.
So from Google's perspective, the 411 project accomplished its mission, and it's no longer needed. The Bing service wants to send you advertising back via SMS unless you opt out, while Google never monetized 411 at all. A lot of the time, Google's business moves and service announcements are not meant to generate revenue on their own, but to help the company make money in other ways. Building a better smartphone experience would certainly qualify in this case.
Google shareholders might feel slighted by this lack of patently obvious cash-generation effort, but if so, they're owning the wrong stock. If clearly defined revenue streams and profitable projects are all you care about, you'll be happier owning an Income Investor pick like Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) or Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD ) , where you'll find exactly that kind of profit focus translated into rock-steady dividend payouts.
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