Yahoo Inc. said on Tuesday it would introduce later this week a faster, enhanced version of its Internet services for U.S. mobile phone users, while expanding into key markets in Asia, Canada and Europe.
“We believe more people are going to access the Internet on their mobile devices in 10 years time than on the PC, so we have really been concentrating on this area,” said Geraldine Wilson, the European head of Yahoo’s Connected Life unit.
Since January, a test version of Yahoo Go 2.0 has been free to download in the United States. It will now be offered in local languages in 13 countries, including France, Germany, Spain, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Yahoo Go 2.0 will be available on “tens of millions of phones” both in Europe and Asia by the end of this year, said Marco Boerries, senior vice president of the company’s mobile business, officially known as Yahoo Connected Life.
At a global telecommunications industry conference in Singapore on Wednesday, Yahoo will announce deals with operators in six Asian countries who have agreed to feature Yahoo mobile search, dubbed OneSearch, on mobile phones. These deals cover nearly 100 million subscribers, Boerries said.
“In Europe and Asia we are getting very, very nice traction through carrier relationships,” he said. Yahoo is talking to U.S. operators but has yet to reach deals to put Go on phones.
The enhanced version lets users download Yahoo Mail, organize e-mail into folders or read file attachments. Users can search the Web on their phones for locally relevant answers or zoom in on maps with current local U.S. traffic conditions. They can check numbers in their Yahoo Address Book.
Company officials said the service would produce better search results, such as giving details of the nearest cinema, movie times and the latest reviews when a film is searched.
CONSUMERS, HANDSET MAKERS, OPERATORS
Avi Greengart of Current Analysis, a Sterling, Virginia-based technology market research firm, said it was still too early to tell whether Yahoo has succeeded in convincing consumers to use Internet services on their phones.
“The challenge is to let people know Yahoo Go exists,” Greengart said. “Consumers need to know about it. They need to have a data plan with their phone company. They have to download the software and they need to remember to use it.”
Having carriers agree to preload Yahoo Go would eliminate two to three of those steps for consumers, the analyst said.
Yahoo has a three-pronged strategy for winning acceptance for traditionally computer-based services on mobile phones.
First, it is making its software available for download onto mobile phones with Internet browsers. Roughly 40 percent of phones shipping today have browsers, and Boerries expects that to reach 60 percent by year-end.
Second, Yahoo has signed up four of the world’s top five handset makers — Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, LG and Blackberry maker Research in Motion — to pre-install Go. This makes the services instantly available, with no waiting on the Web.
But to realize its goal, Yahoo must strike partnerships with operators — such as Vodafone, with which it has an advertising deal, or Globe Telecom in the Philippines.
Yahoo is set to benefit from Apple Inc.’s introduction of its iPhone on June 29. Apple has named Yahoo Mail as the phone’s featured e-mail delivery service.
Over and above any specific lift from iPhone usage, Boerries said the iPhone should raise expectations among consumers worldwide that many of the Internet services they expect to find on computers can now also work well on phones.
“I believe that the iPhone will transform the phone landscape forever,” Boerries said. “For those people who can’t afford an iPhone, Yahoo Go is the next best thing.”
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