Google: More than a million Latitude users in first week

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More than a million wireless subscribers signed up for Google's new mobile friend finder Latitude in its first week according to Vic Gundotra, the web services giant's vice president of engineering. Speaking during a mobile Internet panel at Mobile World Congress 2009 here in Barcelona, Gundotra pointed to the location-based Latitude effort (launched earlier this month) as a prime example of the kinds of new applications enabled by the emergence of more powerful mobile web browsers and software developed to better exploit the technological capabilities of wireless devices.

"We believe that 2008 was the year mobile Internet took off," Gundotra said, citing flat data plans, full web browsers and an improved user interface as the catalysts behind the takeoff. "The iPhone was the first browser to let you surf the real web. But the browser can do more than just browse content--it's a platform for innovations."

According to Gundotra, the modern, cutting-edge mobile browser must comprise three key elements: The HTML5 core language specification, application caching and geolocation tools. He illustrated his argument by showing for the first time in public a new Gmail concept for smartphones that capitalizes on app caching to enable users to browse and search through messages even when the network connection is disabled. Gundotra also demonstrated a mobile search solution integrated with location, voice recognition and the device accelerometer to query "weather," automatically receiving a local forecast for the Barcelona area as determined via GPS.

During a panel discussion following the Gundotra keynote, moderator Rajeev Chand, managing director and senior equity research analyst at Rutberg & Co., said he was surprised by the relatively low number of devices based on Google's Android mobile operating system that were introduced at Mobile World Congress, and asked whether creating an environment around the OS has proven more difficult than Google anticipated. "It takes time," Gundotra responded. "We're very patient."

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