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Yahoo Sends Search Aloft

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yahoo expanded its search empire to the mobile arena with the launch of some additional services.

The company was one of the original content providers for mobile devices running on the Palm or Win CE platform, a decision Yahoo COO Dan Rosensweig admits was a "premature start." This is the first time, however, that mobile users can use the Yahoo search engine to find stuff.

Now, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Internet media company is redoubling its efforts to address not only the rapid growth of users accessing mobile Web content, but also the massive threat of Google .

"The Internet is a very selfish place. You want what you want, when you want it, how you want it, in the correct language -- and you want us to know exactly what you want and know who you are," Rosensweig said during his keynote address here at the CTIA Wireless industry show. "But it is also the most personal medium. You want to tell everyone all about you. We play to your selfishness. We've taken our expertise in providing mobile Internet services and our Yahoo Search Technology, and combined that with our understanding of consumers' wants and needs."

The rollout includes access to Yahoo Local, Image and Web search, as well as quick links to stocks, sports scores and weather. The platform also includes a modified Yahoo Instant Messaging client and Yahoo Mobile Games. The software works on any color screen handset and automatically adjusts itself to QWERTY or numerical keypads. Rosensweig said the services are a natural extension of Yahoo's other recent forays this past year, which include Yahoo Photos and the acquisition of Music Match.

Initially, Yahoo said it will focus its latest efforts in the United States on the largest carriers -- Sprint (the original partner), Cingular (which acquired AT&T Wireless), T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Yahoo has even engineered its Mobile service to automatically dial the handset with the click of a link.

Thad White, director of product marketing for Yahoo Mobile, told internetnews.com that the services are advertising free for the moment but that could change depending on the customer response. Yahoo is also looking at testing the Mobile service for GPS, voice commands and extending its Local search for Mobile to include Yahoo's Smart View functions.

"We are always looking at ways of improving the service," White said. "We of course focused on the consumer market, however we expect that business users will use it as well. At this time, however, we are not planning on any B2B solutions."

White said that Yahoo was very aware of the competition, including the news today that Google acquired digital mapping specialist Keyhole.

While the basic Google search has been available for sometime, White said that Google is only now testing a new SMS service and that it comes nowhere near Yahoo's offerings.

"Our content on the mobile device mirrors what we offer on the desktop," White said. "We're giving our users the quickest access to the information they want. That is evident with the advent of RSS technology, which we've added to some of our Yahoo properties."

White said the pages that show up the best in the new Yahoo Mobile service are formatted in WAP and HTML.

Viewing mobile through the Yahoo lens, Rosensweig said his company's opportunity is great considering 70 percent, or 325 million people, use some type of Yahoo service on the desktop. Yahoo said its research indicates that 79 percent of total U.S. site users own a mobile phone, and they are not afraid to use it.

The company boasts 15 Yahoo products currently available via mobile phones in the United States and more than 50 carrier and device manufacturer relationships worldwide.

"We are about openness and providing APIs to developers," Rosensweig said. This is a major paradigm shift and it impacts everything that Yahoo does, as it give users more power give them access to take that content anywhere."