Telefonica Targets Google, Apple With Voice-Command Search

Telefonica SA, Europe’s second-largest telecommunications operator, plans to start offering a web search engine operated by voice in the second half of the year.

The Internet engine was developed by the Spanish startup Sherpa and seeks to rival Google Inc.’s Next and Apple Inc.’s Siri voice-command services, Ana Segurado, managing director of Madrid-based Telefonica’s Open Future unit, said in an interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The program will be offered with Telefonica services and marketed by the carrier, she said.

Telefonica is seeking to increase its offerings of digital-and Internet-focused services. The company is also embroiled in the conflict between European phone carriers and major Internet companies such as Google and Facebook Inc., which the carriers say should face stricter regulations to balance competition in the market.

Earlier, Telefonica Chief Operating Officer Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete said at the conference that the company was working with Sherpa on an “alternative to traditional search for smartphones.”

The Open Future unit is an umbrella group within Telefonica that oversees the company’s startup support programs as well as its venture capital investments.

Telefonica shares rose 0.4 percent to 13.77 euros at 9:07 a.m. in Madrid. The stock has gained 15 percent this year.

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