Telephone directory service has gone through a massive upheaval over the past year. Jingle Networks was able to take about 6% of the market and a patent with their Free 411 service. However, what started with Jingle Networks has exploded to a wider field of competition including heavyweights like Google and AT&T. But now, rather unceremoniously, Microsoft has finally gotten into the mix by launching their own free directory service, Live Search 411, this week. The announcement was mixed in with a few other notes about visual enhancements across their maps services. In contrast, Google has been visibly promoting their effort.
The free 411 service, Live Search 411, is a mobile service developed in partnership with recently acquired TellMe. You can get the service on any phone by dialing 1-800-CALL-411 (1-800-225-5411).
Like GOOG 411 users can get local directory service. All you have to do is say the city and state, then ask for the business or category to hear a list of options. However, the two services differ in their details. Live Search 411 also offer other services, such as movie times, weather, and traffic info. Like Google, internet enabled phones can have the results text messaged to them with a link to a map, but no directions. Those of you with really old phones and a need for directions can still try Dial Directions, a service that sends them to you in plain text over SMS.
They also differ in some smaller ways as well. Live Search prompts the user for input more often than GOOG 411, which assumes a lot of responses unless the user says otherwise. Live 411 lets you search by city district as well, which is useful if you want to find a restaurant around where you live. I found the voice recognition on both services to be equal, with both failing for names of some Italian restaurants I searched.
The fight between these well financed services will likely be a long one, and no one's making any money yet.