Living in the U.S. I sometimes forget that there is innovation happening outside of our borders. Chalk it up to American arrogance I guess.
Anyway, I was having dinner with a friend of mine from "across the pond" (aka Great Britain) and he started telling me about a new startup over there called Texperts.
Here's a brief synopsis from their web site...
you’re in the urban jungle hunting for answers, just send your question to 66000. Exactly as you would do with a mate. We’ll send you a brilliant answer for a quid - easy. When you need to find a location, the Texperts, in partnership with Multimap, can send an individually-tailored map to your mobile. All it costs is an extra 50p.
What do people ask the Texperts? Well, everything really, from how to find late night karaoke in London to how to get in touch with a good plumber immediately. They want to know train times, restaurant recommendations, sports scores, gift advice, phone numbers, addresses, directions…you get the picture. It’s a daily life support service that can help you out of a jam.
For those who might be thrown by the odd mix of marketing speak and British lingo it's basically a service where you can send a question via text message and they'll answer it for you for about $2 (which is billed to your cell phone)
It is a novel idea and one I'd love to try out. But when I really think about it I'm not sure how useful it would be in the long run. The mobile web is already getting to the point where most simple items such as sports scores, phone numbers, train times, and other static facts can be found without anyone's help.
More complicated questions like gift advice would have to fit into 140 characters which makes their usefulness limited.
Then you have the biggest possible drawback: The fact that the service is only as effective as the expert on the other end. Not only could their expertise be faulty but there's also the possibility of their recommendations being tainted. They certainly wouldn't be the first company to run into a financial shortfall and cash out by doing their sponsors bidding.
(This is speculation of what COULD happen on my part and in no way reflects anything the management of Texperts have ever said, done or even thought about to the best of my knowledge)
As with any new idea there are obviously going to be hurdles and the above ponderings are just a few of the possible ones. But if they do get it right this could be one of the most powerful concepts to come out of the mobile revolution. The idea of being able to get quality information on the move is really the fulfillment of the promise made by the mobile web. Any company that can lay claim to a significant part of that fulfillment is in a really good place.
If Texperts is even half as effective as they claim to be they're in an enviable place.