AllThingsD is one of several sources reporting that the EVP of Connected Life at Yahoo, Marco Boerries, will be leaving the company ahead of the anticipated management reorganization. AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher speculates that this may result in a “cut back” in mobile efforts at Yahoo:
It’s unclear what the impact of Boerries’ departure on Yahoo’s Connected Life unit will be.
But it seems more likely than not that Bartz will cut back, given it is a harder to monetize now and also because Yahoo does not have its own device, as both Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) do, which might help it create a more virtuous ecosystem.
This is very casual speculation and hopefully — for Yahoo — it’s wrong.
Yahoo has very correctly seen the mobile space as strategic and made a massive global business development effort with carriers and device makers to embed Yahoo services and search on millions of handsets. Accordingly the firm has previously said that it has potential reach to more than 800 million mobile users around the globe as a result of these deals.
I recently previewed Yahoo Mobile (the new suite of apps/tools) with Marc Davis who has the formal title “Chief Scientist and VP of ESP, Yahoo! Connected Life.” The new Yahoo Mobile is quite impressive and needs to roll out soon as part of a larger effort to re-assert Yahoo’s claim to mobile leadership.
While Yahoo’s various properties, especially mail, have done very well in mobile, it lags Google in search on mobile devices. In fact, the distribution of mobile search share is very similar to what it is on the PC side (different metrics firms show somewhat different numbers). In addition, Opera’s newly released data show that Google and Facebook are making big gains in mobile. Google has obviously invested heavily in the segment as well and regards it as strategic.
Everyone still likes to argue that the mobile market is in its “infancy,” which is not true. While ad revenues are still relatively small, mobile advertising is very real and growing. As an aside, there are lots of ad revenue forecasts flooding in the market; all but a select few are largely based on speculative modeling rather than a real understanding of user behavior and facts “on the ground.”
This is a critical time for mobile user behavior and competitors in the space. For example, Windows Mobile has been around for years and pre-dates the iPhone, Android or the new Palm WebOS. However these newer competitors threaten to marginalize Windows Mobile (if it doesn’t continue to improve) among consumers notwithstanding the apparent massive handset OEM commitment (e.g., LG) to the platform.
It doesn’t matter than Yahoo doesn’t have its own OS or branded device. It does have a very innovative suite of mobile products and a powerful mobile authoring tool in Blueprint that makes its services (and related advertising) work across platforms. Indeed, I believe that mobile is not only stratetic but a key to reestablishing the strength of the Yahoo brand among the tech savvy and other influential users.
If there are cut backs or delays for Yahoo mobile services it could impair the company’s ability to compete and gain usage in this very strategic space at a time when user habits are starting to form. Eventually search on mobile devices will be on par with or exceed volumes on the PC. And in many developing countries today the “internet” is primarily accessed through mobile handsets.
Even though mobile ad revenues are tiny by comparison to online, Yahoo CEO Bartz should take a longer-term view and allow Yahoo to continue to invest and develop its mobile products for the day when ad revenues are meaningful. That day will be here before we know it.
Postscript from Greg: Here’s a statement issued by a Yahoo spokesperson about the Boerries departure:
After four years at Yahoo!, Marco Boerries is leaving the company for personal reasons. Under Marco’s leadership, the Connected Life division developed a leadership position in Mobile, and most recently in the Connected TV space.
The division has seen many accomplishments over the last several years, including setting the standard for a great device experience with Yahoo! Go, delivering an award-winning mobile search experience via Yahoo! oneSearch and winning in mobile search distribution by signing more than 70 operator partners globally to date. Most recently, the Connected Life team unveiled the next generation of technology and services for Internet-connected televisions and introduced Yahoo! Mobile, a highly-personalized mobile starting point to the Internet, at Mobile World Congress 2009.