SAN FRANCISCO – Web search leader Google Inc. (GOOG) on Thursday said it was now offering U.S. mobile phone users a personalized version of the Google home page tailored to work on most recently introduced mobile phones.
The Google Personalized Home page for mobile phones will allow consumers to conduct Web searches and check Gmail e-mail, news headlines, local weather reports or a list of stock prices — all from one central page on their phones.
Google is racing with Internet rivals such as Yahoo (YHOO), Microsoft (MSFT), America Online (TWX) and InfoSpace (INSP) to extend the information services they already offer on computers to the browsers of mobile phones.
The Mountain View, California,-based company plans to offer the personalized Google home page for mobile phone users in international markets in the coming weeks and months, said Deep Nishar, Google's product manager for wireless services. Some international users may be able to use the service instantly.
"A phone is a device you carry with you all the time," Nishar said in a phone interview. "It is really an extension of people's personalities. We feel that is very important that the information you care about is just one click away," he said.
The various Google information services are optimized to work on the smaller screens available on mobile phones and the slower connections available on mobile phone networks compared with the high-speed Internet connections many computers have.
Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said that giving consumers the ability to program their own phones to get the specific types of information they want is "hugely important" for increasing the use of the mobile Web.
"The fewer clicks it takes to get you to the place that has the information you need, the more likely you are to use the mobile phone for that purpose," Golvin said.
Users who have already set up a personalized Google homepage on their computers can visit http://www.google.com through the Web browser of their mobile device, select the "Personalized Home" link, and sign in to their Google account. The user is automatically signed in the next time they visit google.com.
Google introduced the personalized home page for computers last year. Customers who have not signed up for a personalized home page yet must first visit http://www.google.com/ig on their computers before they can use the mobile phone service.
Technically speaking, the Google personalized home page for mobile phones works on any browser running XHTML, a version of the basic coding system used to create Web pages. Virtually any mobile phone introduced in the U.S. market over the past year offers a Web browser running XHTML, Nishar said.
The new personalized home page requires customers to first click on their browsers and then go to Google. Some mobile carriers may charge extra for using the Web on phones.
Google is also working with mobile phone carriers and wireless equipment makers to install direct links to Google on the first screen mobile phone users encounter when they use their phones, Nishar said.
Already, T-Mobile in Germany has made the Google home page its starting screen, replacing the dominant German carrier's own home page. Last week, Motorola Inc. (MOT) announced a deal to install Google as a featured service on a variety of advanced mobile phones to be introduced this year.
Similarly, last week rival Yahoo unveiled deals with the world's two biggest phone makers, Nokia Group (NOK) and Motorola, to pre-install a custom version of Yahoo services on millions of phones.
Amid a broad decline in U.S. markets and Internet stocks more specifically, Google shares closed down $8.00, or 1.7 percent, at $463.83 on Nasdaq on Thursday, not far from its all-time intraday trading high level around $475 set on Wednesday.