Yahoo! to open mobile platform to outside developers

Yahoo! at last week’s CES show unveiled plans to open up its mobile software and services to outside developers, a decision likely spurred by Internet rival Google’s November announcement of its Android open mobile platform.

As part of a four-tiered strategy, the company is looking to ultimately serve billions of mobile consumers around the world, and expects that the best way to do this is to open up its mobile platform.

First, it is introducing its new Mobile Developer Platform, which allows developers to create mobile-optimized applications (commonly known as mobile widgets) that are simple to build, quick to deploy and run across a wide selection of devices, making it easier for Internet content and services to go mobile. The platform includes tools for writing code once and publishing content across hundreds of devices. Yahoo! said this would accelerate adoption of mobile services by creating more choices for the consumer.

Second is the beta launch of Yahoo!’s new mobile home page, which the company is positioning as the starting point for mobile Internet users worldwide. The home page has been retooled with a more attractive user interface and easier navigation capabilities and incorporates home page elements from the My Yahoo! and Internet portals. It also includes new features for the oneSearch application and content from Yahoo! Answers and Wikipedia. The company will roll out the homepage to an increasing number of mobile devices throughout the coming months.

Third, the company has launched Yahoo! Go 3.0, an open version of the company’s 2.0 mobile service packages. Among the new features are mobile widgets from several outside Internet content providers, such as eBay and MTV.

Lastly, Yahoo! will delve more heavily into mobile advertising, creating a “monetization engine” enabling publishers to monetize their services and advertisers to reach their target audiences. The first step toward this is the launch of display advertising in the Yahoo! Go 3.0 beta client, with more services planned throughout the year.

CES 2008 was not the first time Yahoo! has made public its intentions to open its platform to outside developers. CEO Jerry Yang has made statements in the past about the company’s desire to be the global “starting point” for mobile Internet users and hinting at the possible creation of a mobile platform.

Yahoo! is perhaps feeling the heat from the Google announcement, which may be the reason behind its decision to outline its open mobile strategy in detail. The much-touted Android platform is designed to give mobile operators, device manufacturers and developers all the software needed to run a mobile phone through an open platform. Through the Open Mobile Handset Alliance, created to support development of Android, it has already attracted support from 34 companies, including such heavyweights as Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm and Motorola.

Editor’s note: See Yahoo! rolls out beta version of Go 3.0 mobile app for more system specifications.

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