Starting today, many consumers whose phones support Java software will be able to download the Google Local application on them. From there, they can conduct searches for businesses or services in a specific geographical location and view the search results plotted on a map.

With Google Local for mobile devices, users can get colorful, overhead views of a neighborhood and even check a hotel listing to see how close it is to the beach. Unlike most new cellphone offerings that work on only a handful of phones, Google's application can be used on more than 100 current phones that use the Java Brew programming language.

That includes models from Cingular, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile. Verizon's phones use a different programming language, as do BlackBerrys and Palm devices, so they are not compatible.
Yahoo has a competing search and map program for mobile phones, heavy on text and light on graphics. For most consumers, that's just fine, says Chris Sherman, the editor of the SearchDay blog.

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