Google CEO Eric Schmidt speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.  (Source: Reuters)
Rolls out new shopping tools to help consumers

Currently, when someone tells you they just Googled something, it is generally understood to mean that they performed a keyword web search. But if the Mountainview, Calif.-based company has its way, the term "Googling" might soon have all new implications. Think: "Will that be cash, credit, or Google?"

While Google didn't unleash Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" on the world yesterday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, as some had speculated, CEO Eric Schmidt was on hand to talk about some features Google is working on. One of the most impressive was the inclusion of mobile web pay in the update to the mobile OS.

As Reuters reports, Schmidt showed off an as-yet-unreleased phone, which includes a special chip that replaces a credit card when paying for goods and services. The technology, called Near Field Communications (NFC), will be integrated into Gingerbread (which will be available "in a few weeks"). A consumer simply taps the phone against a special terminal when paying for an item, and the process acts like swiping a credit card.

"One way to think about it is, this could replace your credit card," Schmidt said at the Web 2.0 Summit. "My guess is that there are going to be 500 new startups in the mobile payment space as these platforms emerge." He said that Google did not have plans to develop its own applications that would take advantage of the new technology, and that Google will partner partner with payment processors and others in the traditional credit card industry rather than compete with them.

Reuters notes that NFC technology has been available for years, but should become more popular thanks to Google's ubiquitous Android operating system, which now makes up a quarter of all smartphone sales worldwide and nearing half of the U.S. smartphone market. If this all sounds too familiar, it's because it closely resembles a plan unveiled in August by three of the major U.S. wireless carriers to work together to develop a system of paying for goods via mobile device.

Google is also enhancing some of its standard search features to help consumers shop, just in time for the holiday shopping blitz. When searching for a product in the Shopping tool, Google will now display stores near your location that carry the item, in addition to online retailers. The new capability should boost traditional brick-and-mortar retail sales.

"We're bridging these two offline and online shopping channels," Sameer Samat, Google's director of commerce told PCWorld.

But the added functionality is also aimed to emulate the in-store experience. Areas called "popular products" and "aisles" will be added, where related products to the ones searched for will be displayed, similar to Amazon's tab that shows what other people also bought in addition to the product you are viewing. These features should be available from Google later this week.

Finally, Google is also improving its Google Shopper application for Android. GoogleMobile blog writes: "In addition to existing, popular features like local availability, fast barcode scanning and voice search, version 1.3 includes new search filters like “price” and “brand” to help users refine their searches to find the perfect product."

Version 1.3 will also add a "featured lists" section that will allow users to browse through lists of suggested items and where to find them. The new version of Google Shopper will only be available in the U.S. for now.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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