Mr. Softy gets some things really wrong. The very nice but annoyingly imperfect Zune is a perfect example of a product that fails to live up to Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) hype.

But Microsoft's got some under-the-radar successes that could be building the groundwork for important future biz. One of those is Windows Mobile, and more specifically, the Live Search tool for Windows Mobile. Having just gotten a snazzy little Samsung Blackjack from AT&T (NYSE:T), I've found the Microsoft-built online search, mapping, and traffic capabilities to be simple, attractive, accurate, fast, and effective. I can find the closest barbershop or Indian restaurant in just a few clicks. Smart menu trees mean I can do it one-handed, freeing me from having to do the typing. (Only two things are lacking: better integration with the addresses from the contact list, and the ability to save maps or driving directions to the device for access when the user is out of range of the data signal stream.)

By contrast, the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) mobile search application is such a complete mess -- slow, cluttered, unintuitive, and ugly -- that I uninstalled it hours after download. (By the way, I'm not the only one to come to this conclusion.)

This may seem like a yawner, except that, from my own habits, I can easily see a day when mobile Internet searches are hugely important. I may not search as often from the phone as I do from the desktop, but the searches I do do (heh, doodoo ...) tend to involve spending money: I'm hungry. I need a haircut. Where's 300 playing? Where can I get a new brake rotor for my bike?

Therefore, these are likely to be higher-value searches from an advertiser's perspective. So if Microsoft can leverage its good work here, and its fast growth in mobile OS market share, it may just have the opportunity to turn its search-driven ad division into a success, even if it's not the name on the tip of everyone's tongue.

Comments? Bring them here.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. AT&T is a former Stock Advisor selection.

At the time of publication, Seth Jayson had shares of Microsoft, but no position in any other company mentioned. See his latest blog commentary here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.