Froogle goes wireless

Google Inc. has rolled out for public testing a service that lets some mobile phone users access its Froogle comparison shopping search engine.

The Froogle wireless service, a Google Labs experiment, lets users with phones that support Wireless Markup Language (WML) conduct searches on products by going to http://wml.froogle.com, according to a statement issued by Google on Tuesday.

The service may come in handy for shoppers who are at a retail store and want to compare a product's price at online stores, Google said in the statement.

The Froogle search engine retrieves information about products to help online shoppers make buying decisions. For example, a query for basketball will return a list of related products, such as balls, hoops and books, each one linked to the online store which sells it. Users can sort and filter the query results based on different parameters. What they can't do is buy directly from Froogle, because it is not a store or an online shopping mall.

The Froogle wireless service is provided free of charge, a Google spokesman said Wednesday. Unlike the main Web-based Froogle search engine, the wireless version doesn't return photos of the products it searches for, but it does provide links to stores and pricing information, the spokesman said.

The main Froogle search engine (http://froogle.google.com/) is in beta mode, which is considered more stable than services still at the labs stage, like the Froogle wireless service, the spokesman said. Services still considered Google Labs experiments are expected to undergo more tweaking and refining than services in beta mode or in production mode.

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