HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc, still fending off a $41 billion takeover bid by Microsoft Corp, unveiled a cell phone tool on Tuesday that lets users keep up with their favorite topics using dynamic bookmarks.
OnePlace, to be launched in the second quarter, allows users to mark links, news feeds or search results that lead them to, for example, the latest information on flight arrivals, sports results or friends’ Facebook postings.
Bookmarking tools are not new -- Yahoo’s del.icio.us is one -- but Yahoo says it has reinvented bookmarking for phones, given their small screens and different user requirements, with placeholders linked to updated info instead of a fixed page.
“You have something that’s always changing. You could always just bookmark a site as a placeholder but now it’s alive,” Marco Boerries, who is leading Yahoo’s mobile drive, said in an interview at the CeBIT IT fair in Hanover, Germany.
Yahoo is racing to leapfrog Google Inc’s clear lead in computer search and advertising by custom-building services for cell phones and forming alliances with carriers that already give it access to 600 million mobile phone users.
Yahoo aims to reach 750 million users this year by adding to a partner list that includes Telefonica, AT&T Inc and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile.
OnePlace also leans on two other Yahoo mobile services -- oneSearch and oneConnect -- by tailoring the content behind the bookmarks to match the location of users and the preferences and activities of friends and contacts who use the service.
“We’re not reinventing forms of mobile content or getting into the content business but there are places where you have stuff that you care about, that you’re passionate about, that you follow,” Boerries said.
Users will be able to gather their favorite Web places either by choosing them on their PC and then synchronizing with their cell phone, or directly on the mobile phone itself.
As with oneSearch, actual information will be shown rather than Web links, often awkward to navigate on a cell phone. Users would be able to get the service either through carriers who have Yahoo deals or download it from Yahoo, Boerries said.
RIGHT ADVERTISING MODEL
Boerries said onePlace was the last major piece of Yahoo’s consumer offering for mobile, which it has been working on for three years, leaving it free to focus on making money from it.
“The consumer experience is not done but it’s at a stage where it can now evolve,” he said. “My foreseeable focus for the future is to build the right advertising model.”
Yahoo already has advertising deals with carriers including T-Mobile, Vodafone Group Plc and AT&T, but the question the industry faces now is how to develop the form to better fit the cell phone’s small screen and target consumers better.
“We did the simple stuff really early and that’s how we’re making money right now, but that’s not the way forward,” Boerries said. “We’re nowhere near where we could be.”
Boerries declined to say how long it could take to come up with a new model but argued Yahoo could help pull it together.
“What’s inhibiting advertisers right now is (that) it’s too complicated with all the different platforms,” he said, referring to the variety of cell phone operating systems that exists, ranging from Nokia to Microsoft.
Boerries said ads should enhance and not obstruct normal cell phone use, such as returning useful, sponsored information in Web search results. “The challenge is to create a system that the user is super, super happy to access,” he said.
Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in San Francisco; editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Braden Reddall
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