In Barcelona at the GSMA Mobile World Congress event, which has been mostly about new handsets so far, Yahoo announced what it’s calling “Yahoo Mobile.” I haven’t yet been able to talk to anyone at Yahoo about this, but it appears to be mostly a rebranding and repackaging of existing Yahoo mobile assets, with a few new things in the mix.
Yahoo Go, the company’s downloadable mobile client, appears to be deemphasized or is being phased out (Yahoo will correct me if I’m wrong). There also appears to be a new effort to create more correspondence between the mobile Web and mobile applications. And there’s a new emphasis on personalization, although personalization capabilities existed before in various Yahoo mobile services.
The new Yahoo Mobile appears to be divided into three categories: Mobile Web, iPhone and other smartphones. This marks a new emphasis on the iPhone. Yahoo had curiously neglected the iPhone — the most active user base in mobile — except for its oneConnect app, which is about organizing content and activity from multiple social networks or social sites.
The new Yahoo Mobile leads with the iPhone, however. From the announcement:
Yahoo! Mobile will be available on the mobile Web, as an app developed for the Apple(R) iPhone(TM), and as an app developed for smartphones from Nokia(R), RIM(R), Samsung(R), Sony Ericsson(R) and Motorola(R) as well as those powered by Windows Mobile(R). Yahoo! Mobile initially will be available today through a managed beta program, with general availability expected in Q2 2009.
All the key Yahoo services appear to be covered in Yahoo Mobile (e.g., Mail, Messenger, News, Calendar, etc.); oneSearch is also prominent. It appears at a “big picture” level that Yahoo Mobile tries to bring more coherence to a range of mobile content, services and applications that Yahoo was promoting in the past: Go, oneSearch, onePlace, oneConnect.
Yahoo Mobile also throws in the Opera mobile browser (in the “smartphone version”) and emphasizes its mobile widget platform. Yahoo has positioned itself as a mobile development platform for others and mobile widgets is the mobile version of the broader “open” strategy. Conspiciously absent from the announcement is a version of Yahoo Mobile for the Android platform, which in my view is a mistake akin to Yahoo’s past neglect of the iPhone. (Maybe it’s coming.)
I’m inferring from this apparent strategy shift that mobile users didn’t exactly understand what all these Yahoo mobile properties were or how they fit together. The new messaging is clearer and more consistent with Yahoo’s online strategy as well: “your starting point to the internet.”
Among the big portals and search engines, Yahoo has the largest roster of “default search” and carrier relationships in mobile. The company has said its potential global audience reach is more than 800 million mobile users today. Yahoo is also doing a wide range of interesting things with mobile search and display advertising.
Yahoo is number two in mobile search to rival Google. However Yahoo Mail has been the most visitied mobile destination in the US over the past couple of years.
Postscript: I exchanged emails with Yahoo and the company said Yahoo Mobile is “far more than a rebranding” and represents an extensive upgrade to its mobile services. I was also told that there is an Android platform version coming later; it was simply not mentioned in the release.
I look forward to a demo and seeing the new functionality.