All this speak of branded utility these days, but this one missed a lot of mentions. Google's 411 service launched with not that much fanfare.
Google started Goog-411 from Google Labs today which is a free telephone based information service aimed at again routing another service through the Google search parameters. TechCrunch states that "About 2.6 billion 411 calls are made in the U.S. each year, and it is a $7 billion/year market."
The product is completely voice automated, leading to some efficiency problems but really a small price to pay considering the charges most people are hit up with when using a live operator. Of course it ties into Google Maps, making it somewhat irrelevant to those with a nearby internet connection and some type of mobile computing device.
Microsoft recently purchased a pay-for-service 411 service as well, but it looks as if these freebie models will probably own share in a few years. Google has a great premise on their hands, furthering the democracy of information as it spirals to freeness. It seems data and information are destined to be open in the future, just look at the riot going on with the music industry. Services are being completely destroyed as the generators are choosing to directly sell or give away their content. In this case Google, disrupts the current phone system, albeit its for the better.
My theory is that disruptive services such as this are actually easier to establish in a static market. Certainly makes standout communications including advertising's job easier. On the other hand, utilities and phone services in particular are somewhat resistant to change as a herd mentality is predominant. Should be interesting to see how long it takes for another service to be rewritten through the internet. Should be just a matter of time...Note this merits further conversation, but im trying to actually post on this space. So maybe another time and place..