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Yahoo! wants your desktop … and your phone … and Google

Yahoo! co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang this week detailed a vision for delivering the most personally-relevant and indispensable Internet experience to consumers worldwide. Addressing the needs of today’s users at the 2008 International CES Industry Insider Series at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Yang provided the first public demonstration of Yahoo!’s latest mobile offerings and offered a concept demonstration of the future of the desktop experience.

Jerry Yang and David Filo at CESIn his speech, Yang said “from the newest to the most experienced user, Yahoo!’s goal is to be the simple starting point for a much richer and more complex world so you can get more out of it. Whether you’re looking for fun, information, entertainment or social connections, you want to experience everything to the fullest – this is living life with an exclamation point.”

Yang’s presentation and message were clearly a response to the massive strides made by Google over the past two years – much of it ironically coming after a keynote presentation by Google at the same venue two years ago. At CES 2006, Google unveiled a strategy roadmap that electrified the content industry. Since then, Google has implemented its strategy to such dramatic effect, that it dominates search throughout the world, and sets the agenda in areas as diverse as mapping, social networking and desktop customisation.

And Yahoo! wants some of what those guys are having.

According to Yang, the company’s goal is to strengthen Yahoo!’s role as the preferred starting point for anything and everything users need online. To this end, the company plans to focus resources on becoming the best starting point for the entire web.

“To be the best starting point, it’s clear that we need to open the Yahoo! experience to any device or user. Mobile is a perfect example since more consumers are soon expected to come and go from the Net via their phones rather than desktops,” he said. “We’re committed to creating the best and richest mobile experience for all consumers – making it extremely personalized to their individual style and needs while opening up the Yahoo! mobile platform to allow anyone to participate.”

Powering the Mobile Ecosystem

During his address, Yang welcomed the company’s executive vice president for Connected Life, Marco Boerries, on stage to demonstrate several new mobile offerings launched at this year’s CES and to elaborate on Yahoo!’s mission “to foster a mobile ecosystem – ultimately serving billions of users – by providing indispensable and compelling services to consumers, developers/publishers and advertisers.”

The following is in Yahoo!s own words:

  • The Yahoo! Mobile Developer Platform introduces a one-stop solution for developers to create mobile-optimized applications (i.e., mobile widgets) that are easy to build, quick to deploy and run across a wide selection of devices, thus making it easier for Internet content and services to “go mobile.” It will provide developers with the tools to write code once and efficiently publish their content across hundreds of devices – instantly accessible by hundreds of millions of users. Yahoo!’s Mobile Developer Platform is expected to usher in a dramatic acceleration in the adoption of mobile services by creating an explosion of new choices for the consumer. The first third-party widgets built on this new platform – from launch partners including eBay, MySpace and Viacom – are being made available this week.
  • Yahoo! added another essential new service through the early beta launch this week of the new Yahoo! mobile home page, a visually-stunning and easy to navigate interface for the most visited mobile site in the U.S. (M:Metrics, October 2007) – destined to quickly become the essential starting point for the mobile Internet globally. Designed to incorporate the best “home page” elements from pioneering PC portals such as My Yahoo! and the yahoo.com front page, it embraces a dynamic, open and highly personalized approach. By visiting http://beta.m.yahoo.com from select mobile phone browsers, consumers will be able to get an at-a-glance update of what’s new since their last visit (new emails, upcoming calendar appointments, etc), previews of their favorite web content (news headlines, weather conditions, etc), as well as tools to quickly get to their most frequently used services on the mobile Internet.
  • The latest version of Yahoo!’s flagship, all-in-one mobile offering, Yahoo! Go 3.0, also launched in an early beta this week. Yahoo! Go 3.0 builds on the success and popularity of the preceding 2.0 version: but where Yahoo! Go 2.0 was a collection of mobile-optimized Yahoo! services, Yahoo! Go 3.0 is an “open” environment including an enhanced design, the new Yahoo! home page and Yahoo!’s full selection of Mobile Widgets developed by third parties. Users now can tap into the vast selection offered by the rest of the Internet – making it even easier for mobile consumers to get exactly what they want, when they want it and how they want it.

A Starting Point for the Future

Yang also provided a preview of several exciting technology concepts that deliver upon his vision by sharing a glimpse of what his Yahoo! Mail inbox could look like.

Yang demonstrated how Yahoo! could determine a user’s most relevant personal connections across both Yahoo! and multiple social networks. In doing so, Yahoo! would create a smarter mail box that prioritizes the most important messages from the most important people, providing a more personally relevant e-mail experience for consumers.

Not only did Yang show how Yahoo! Mail could prioritize a user’s most relevant connections, he also demonstrated how Yahoo! could open up Yahoo! Mail and incorporate mini applications (or widgets) from both Yahoo! and across the Internet. For example, by simply scrolling over relevant terms in their e-mail, users in the future could access things like maps, local reviews, invitations and more, directly from their inbox without having to open another browser.

By opening up Yahoo! Mail in addition to other services across Yahoo!, third party developers would be able to create new applications that delight hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

Did someone say Google? Not David Filo, co-founder and Chief Yahoo!

“Yahoo! has today outlined what is possible and that the future is not that far away,” said Filo at the event. “Yahoo! is uniquely positioned to make this all a reality – we have scale, a huge community of users, great applications and APIs and insightful data. We now have an open platform for third party developers to build some interesting applications.”

“That’s the vision of the future we want to leave you with today: Yahoo! helping make the most of the Internet and the people you care about on whatever platform,” he continued. “We will continue working to provide you with an online starting point that’s more relevant, fulfilling and fun.”


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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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