Yahoo CEO stakes out mobile phone market strategy

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc’s Jerry Yang will seek on Monday to demonstrate in his first major speech since taking over as chief executive in June the inroads the company is making putting Web services on mobile phones.

CEO of Yahoo! Inc. Jerry Yang answers a question with Yahoo General Counsel Michael Callahan (L) before U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington November 6, 2007. Yang will seek on Monday to demonstrate in his first major speech since taking over as chief executive in June the inroads the company is making putting Web services on mobile phones. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

In a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show, an industry agenda-setting conference taking place in Las Vegas this week, the Yahoo co-founder will highlight a series of enhancements the company is making to its Internet services to optimize them to run on hundreds of millions of existing mobile phones.

Marco Boerries, the executive in charge of Yahoo’s division supplying Web services for phones, TVs and other devices beyond PCs, told Reuters in an interview ahead of Yang’s speech that Yahoo wants to play a big role in these new markets while staying true to its roots as an Internet services pioneer.

Yahoo needs to show it is making progress under Yang in entering new markets like phones after suffering setbacks in recent years in its core Web search and advertising businesses. These missteps had led to the recent management shake-up.

Among the new services the company is set to begin offering in a trial mode on Monday is a new home page that is optimized for mobile phone users but which will differ in layout and content from what computer users see at

“The purpose of the new Yahoo mobile phone home page is to be your starting point to the mobile Internet,” Boerries said. The mobile Internet is a subset of the Web sites computer users see, typically optimized to be viewed on small phone screens.

Yahoo is also introducing a new way for consumers to grab personalized “snippets” of content from either Yahoo’s network of Web services or thousands of independent Web sites ranging from MySpace to YouTube to public messaging service Twitter.

Yahoo’s latest mobile push will borrow features that have grown popular on so-called social network sites such as MySpace or Facebook or its own Flickr photo-sharing site. The features encourage users to share personal details with select friends.

The Sunnyvale, California company is seeking to provide independent software and Internet services developers an alternative platform to Google or Facebook with which to connect to consumers. It will also encourage outside developers to build mini Web programs called widgets to run on phones.

Yahoo will offer its Web-based advertising services as an optional way for outside services to make money from consumers using Yahoo’s mobile snippets.

But in a bid to win the trust of independents, Yahoo plans to let developers use rival advertising services from Google or Microsoft or elsewhere to generate money from services running inside Yahoo snippets.

Yahoo executives aim to draw a sharp contrast with other big computer and Internet companies that are pushing to make the mobile phone market function more like the computer industry has by introducing computer-like phones of their own.

For example, Apple Inc has redefined what many consumers expect from mobile phones in terms of ease-of-use, handy access to personal information and Internet access since unveiling its iPhone computer-phone hybrid one year ago.

Yahoo arch-rival Google Inc recently introduced a new software system to open up the traditionally tightly controlled way in which telephone handset makers and network carriers have developed new phones.

Microsoft Corp expects 10 million Windows-based phones will be sold this year and at least 20 million such phones next year.

“We have a different approach,” Boerries said. “We are not about building phones. We are not about building another (mobile software) operating system. That would be too limiting to what our goals are,” he said.

The Yahoo mobile executive argues his company can carve out a major chunk of mobile business by delivering a range of new and existing Internet services tailored to work on different types of mobile phones rather than by building phones itself.

“The question we are trying to answer is how can Yahoo enable and lead an ecosystem for billions of mobile phone users, not tens of millions of users (of phones running Apple, Google or Microsoft-based software),” Boerries said.

Yahoo will also introduce Yahoo Go 3.0, an update to a two-year-old set of services that customize Yahoo’s most popular services to run on specific phones ranging from Nokia Oy to Motorola Inc to Samsung.

Yahoo Go 3.0 initially will run on 30 different handset models available in the United States. In coming months, the company planned to introduce the software to work with hundreds of different mobile phone models worldwide.

Editing by Sue Thomas