(WIRED) -- A small startup with a nearly unsearchable name introduced a new model for mobile search Monday.
The service, called Do@ (pronounced "do at"), installs as an app on an iPhone, and lets you run searches through multiple apps, including ones you don't have installed.
The idea is simple and clever. On mobile phones, users are used to choosing a specialized app for a task. So if you are looking for a restaurant nearby, you might launch Yelp or Zagat or UrbanSpoon and then search. And then you might launch each in succession.
Do@ is seeking to make that specialized searching simpler. Do@ separates apps into categories, such as @shopping, @news and @music. So if you start typing "hamburger" into Do@'s search box, it suggests you search on "hamburger @cooking" and "hamburger @restaurants."
If you choose the former, Do@ shows you a web-based version of recipe apps: Big Oven, the Food Network, HowCast, Foodily, Kraft, YouTube's Cooking Channel, Chow, etc.
Users are shown the apps in a display that features one app per page, and you can slide the screen to see the next app. If you want to interact with the result, you simply tap it and a full "web" app shows up, allowing you to scroll and click items.
A search for "hamburger @restaurants" brings up Yelp, Foodspotting and Foursquare among others, with results tailored to your location if you choose to let Do@ have access to that information.
There's no need to have any of the apps installed to search through them, but if you do, you can launch the app by clicking in the results in some cases.
For instance, clicking on a Yelp link launches the Yelp app, but there seems to be no way to launch the Google Maps app from the HTML5 version of Google Maps.
In practice, it's quite handy, especially for something like a musical artist such as Lyle Lovett or someone more obscure. Do@ will show you pages that have relevant results, whether that's YouTube videos, iTunes results of MP3s you can buy, a Pandora radio station, a slidehow of pictures, and then other music apps such as SoundCloud and SongKick.
The search relies on your connection to Do@'s servers, which then have to send requests to the right "apps" and present them back to the user, which can feel a bit slow -- though it's hard to tell if that's just a function of first-day scaling issues or AT&T's 3G network in San Francisco.
Regardless, it's a very clever approach and one could easily see wanting to set it up as the default search box on a mobile device.
The Israeli company behind Do@ says that's not on the near-term roadmap, most likely because that would signal a challenge to companies it wants to partner with.
The company, which has more than $7 million in funding from BRM Capital and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, says iPad and Android versions will be supported in upcoming versions.
Do@ is now available in the iPhone App Store.
Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!
Copyright 2011 Wired.com.