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Thursday, February 14, 2008, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Google iPhone usage shocks search giant

Google on Wednesday said it has seen 50 times more search requests coming from Apple iPhones than any other mobile handset — a revelation so astonishing that the company originally suspected it had made an error culling its own data.

"We thought it was a mistake and made our engineers check the logs again," Vic Gundotra, head of Google’s mobile operations told the Financial Times during this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Should other companies follow in Apple's footsteps by making web access commonplace on their mobile handsets, Gundotra believes the number of mobile searches could outpace fixed internet search "within the next several years."

That of course means big increases in incremental advertising revenues for the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant. Though Google's primary revenue driver remains online advertising, the company has never separated out its mobile revenues from those of traditional computer-based browsers.

Gundotra, however, told the Times that the mobile segment was growing “above expectations”, both in terms of usage and revenues.

"The world is changing. Users want an internet without fences. They know how to type in Google.com if they want to get to it," he said. "Two years ago the operators were still playing the role of gate­keepers but that is no longer the role for them."

The mobile boss also reiterated a long-running company position on the mobile handset market, which is that Google is unlikely to build its own mobile hardware despite widespread speculation to the contrary.

"We want every phone to be a Google phone," he said. "We are ultimately talking about thousands of devices. The best way to do this would be to get Google’s mobile operating system, Android, deployed on as many types of handsets as possible."

Google has the first Android-based mobile handsets from third-party manufacturers would begin shipping during the second half of 2008.