Tellme launches new mobile search service

Tellme Networks Inc., a provider of computerized, voice-driven directory assistance, launched a new mobile search service on Tuesday that allows users to ask for information and see the results pop up with maps and directions on the phone’s screen.

Tellme, which agreed to be acquired by Microsoft Corp. last month, said the free service will be supported by advertising.

The formal launch by Tellme follows months of testing and comes on the heels of an announcement by computer Web search leader Google Inc. to set up an experiment using speech recognition on telephones.

Tellme said its experience handling nearly 80 percent of automated 411 calls in the United States provided the company with an understanding of what people search for.

Users can access Tellme’s search service by calling 1-800-555-TELL or a text message to TELLM (83556).

Users who want to get maps and directions sent to their phone will be asked to download the Tellme by Mobile application at the company’s Web site.

Currently, users can pay mobile carriers more than $1 to receive information from a directory assistance service.

The Tellme acquisition is expected to enhance Microsoft’s position in searches done from mobile phones, which the company sees as a relatively untapped market where it can compete more favorably with Google and Yahoo Inc.

Financial terms of the Tellme acquisition were not disclosed. However, sources familiar with the situation previously told Reuters the companies were in talks for a deal that could value the company at more than $800 million.

U.S. antitrust authorities approved the acquisition on Friday, clearing the way for the deal to close during the current quarter.