Mobile Tech

Yahoo Pumps Up Mobile Effort in Bid to Get a Jump on Google

Having unwillingly ceded Web search leadership to Google, Yahoo is not about to also let the growing world of mobile services slip through its fingers.

The Internet veteran chose the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show to announce a number of mobile initiatives, including a decision to open its mobile platform for developers and publishers.

Yahoo seeks to “enable and lead a mobile ecosystem ultimately serving billions of users by providing indispensable and compelling services to consumers, developers, publishers and advertisers.”

A Widget Explosion

First on Yahoo’s list of new mobile efforts is its new mobile developer platform, a one-stop solution for developers to create mobile widgets.

The platform will provide developers with tools to write code and easily publish widgets that work on many mobile devices. The effort aims to “usher in a dramatic acceleration in the adoption of mobile services by creating an explosion of new choices for the consumer.”

Mobile publishers have been hampered by the high costs of resources, the “fragmented landscape of mobile devices, browsers and operating systems” and development platform scalability limitations, Yahoo noted.

Homey Home Pages

Yahoo’s second new mobile initiative is its new mobile home page, which it described as “visually stunning and easy to navigate.”

Yahoo designed the site to be open and customizable in order to serve as the first stop for those accessing the Web with their mobile devices.

Users can personalize the home page by using content from both Yahoo and other Web properties. Yahoo also upgraded its oneSearch service.

An All-New Yahoo Go

Also introduced at CES was a new version of the Yahoo Go all-in-one mobile service. Yahoo Go 3.0 allows users to easily send e-mail, upload photos, download maps, search for answers, check stocks, access news services and more.

Unlike the 2.0 version, which was limited to mobile-optimized services created by Yahoo, the new Go is an open environment. That means users can not only get all of Yahoo’s mobile widgets but also “tap into the vast selection offered by the rest of the Internet,” said the company.

The new Go has a more intuitive design, a “truly personalized” homepage and other features, Yahoo said.

“Yahoo’s ultimate goal is to bring the best possible Internet experience to the billions of mobile consumers around the globe,” said Marco Boerries, executive vice president of Yahoo’s Connected Life division. “We believe that to succeed on such a scale, the best strategy is to open up our mobile platform in order to tap the innovation and talent of the world’s developers and publishers. Together, we’ll be able to offer the wide selection of content and services that will allow individual consumers to choose their own ideal mobile Internet experiences.”

Bring on the Ads

The new Go client also features display advertising, part of Yahoo’s focus on “monetizing the fast-growing audience of the mobile Internet.”

The Go ads will be followed by “many more innovations in mobile monetization tools and services” that Yahoo has planned for this year, the company noted.

It currently offers mobile display advertising in 21 countries with search marketing live in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, and stressed it is the the exclusive advertising partner for Vodafone in the United Kingdom.

Nice but no Panacea

Yahoo’s efforts to improve the mobile Web experience are welcomed and worth checking out, but Jupiter Research analyst Neil Strother doubts whether they will have a big effect on the industry.

“I guess it’s a good thing,” Strother told TechNewsWorld. “To me, it sounds like a nice iteration: A move to more openness, a move to more widget capability, which is all fine and well.”

Yahoo’s initiatives, as well as those of its competitors, seem “rather incremental” and, while nice, aren’t likely to cause the mobile Web floodgates to open, he said.

“This may be a welcome effort for Yahoo users, but I don’t know that it’s going to light the world on fire,” he said. “A lot of these portal initiatives in mobile are interesting and yet you look at user adoption of mobile Web sites and it’s still fairly low. There are a lot of other issues as well: carriers, difficulty of browsing, differences in devices. There’s still a lot of friction in the system for a lot of mobile users.”

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