By Michal Lev-Ram
LAS VEGAS – Don’t hang up on Yahoo yet.
Even as the wireless industry continues to buzz about Google’s Android initiative, rival Yahoo is taking steps to ensure it too has a place in the mobile future by opening up its platform to outside developers.
As the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas officially kicked off Sunday evening, the “other” search engine unveiled three enhancements to its mobile strategy: A new Yahoo (YHOO) mobile homepage, an updated version of Yahoo Go (the company’s downloadable mobile program) and the launch of a developer platform that will allow outside applications to be built for both offerings. It’s all part of an initiative to make the company’s mobile destinations a one-stop shop for wireless users by opening them up to third-party applications. The goal, of course, is to drive traffic to Yahoo’s growing mobile ad network.
Yahoo executives insist that they aren’t directly responding to Android, Google’s (GOOG) open mobile platform.
“There is a key difference between our two strategies,” says Ojas Rege, Yahoo’s vice president of global mobile products. “We’re very agnostic when it comes to operating systems and devices. Our approach is not to create more fragmentation, but rather figure out how we extract away that complexity for the developer and user.”
Like earlier versions of Yahoo Go and mobile homepage, the updated versions will feature services like e-mail and search. Yahoo also announced Sunday that eBay (EBAY), MySpace (NWS) and Viacom’s MTV (VIA-B) will be third-party launch partners. They will create widgets to connect mobile users to their online shopping accounts, social networking sites and entertainment news. The features will launch in limited form Monday morning. The new version of Yahoo Go will initially run on about 30 mobile devices in the United States, but the company says it will be available on hundreds of phones worldwide within a few months.
“There will be some Yahoo products but a lot of non-Yahoo applications as well,” says Rege.
In recent years, Yahoo has had a much more visible presence than Google at CES. Though Google does have some mobile executives on hand — including Android executive Andy Rubin — this year is no exception. Unlike Google, Yahoo has a booth at the show and CEO Jerry Yang will give a speech Monday morning.