Yahoo! Takes it to the Desktop

In the latest effort by the biggest players in Web media to broaden their reach to consumers, Yahoo! said it would begin promoting software that places Yahoo! icons on users’ desktops, distributing it online and through an agreement with Compaq Computer Corp.

The initiative aims to encourage users to download Yahoo! Essentials, an application that places Yahoo!’s software products and links to its services throughout much of users’ Windows systems. The agreement with Compaq — which builds on an existing advertising and hardware deal — calls for the Yahoo! Essentials bundle to appear on Presario PCs and notebooks, beginning in 2002.

The free software bundle contains a Web browser toolbar that grafts Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo!’s Messenger instant messaging application onto a sidebar on Internet Explorer. The package also adds its Companion search toolbar, as well as links to Yahoo! Address Book, Mail, Calendar, various games, and Briefcase, an online hard drive.

Yahoo! Essentials also sets Yahoo! as the user’s default e-mail service — which means that if users try to e-mail documents from their desktop, they are directed to Yahoo! Mail rather than their other e-mail software.

Additionally, the software installs links to Yahoo sites in a user’s Web browser and places shortcuts to its Messenger and Mail on the desktop, while setting a user’s default start page and search engine to Yahoo!.

For Windows XP users, the software places Yahoo! Mail into the default e-mail spot on the XP Start Menu; adds Yahoo!’s photo sharing service into XP’s Online Print Ordering Wizard, and appends Yahoo! Briefcase to the system’s Web Publishing Wizard.

Such a sweeping move marks the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company’s entry into what’s recently become a contentious and controversial marketing ploy among Internet portals.

As advertising dollars dwindle and Internet traffic growth slows, the major portals have found themselves in fierce competition for control of a user’s Web experience. During the past several months, however, that fight has moved from the Web onto users’ desktops.

In what many viewed as an effort to placate antitrust regulators and critics, Microsoft earlier this year relaxed manufacturing licensing restrictions, lifting the requirement for PC makers to place desktop icons for Microsoft’s MSN service. Since then, MSN and AOL Time Warner each have entered into negotiations with PC manufacturers to have their services featured on computers’ default desktops, in hopes of attracting and retaining members.

Now, with its expanded deal with Compaq ,Yahoo! seeks to join the fray.

“Our alliance with Compaq Computer also provides Yahoo! with added distribution power and puts Yahoo! Essentials directly into the hands of thousands of new computer purchasers,” said Yahoo!’s Henry Sohn, who is the company’s vice president and general manager network services. “Yahoo! Essentials expands upon Yahoo!’s tradition of offering products and services that are an integral part of consumers’ lives.”

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