Google has unleashed an 800-pound-gorilla in the the $8 billion market for U.S. directory assistance: a free 411 service. 1-800-GOOG-411 launched last week as part of an initiative to bring Google's power to voice searches. And unlike traditional 411, customers can call in with search terms ("pizza Upper East Side") rather than the name of their local pie shop.
Google's service joins a growing market for voice search technology; Microsoft acquired Tellme, a voice-recognition company testing its own free 411, last month. But the technology still needs perfecting, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Voice is a great way to input information," says Angus Davis, a Tellme co-founder. "It's not always the best way to get output."