Here's a statement I got from a "Yahoo! Spokesperson":
"Yahoo! is focused on building indispensable mobile user experiences, such as Yahoo! Go and Yahoo! oneSearch, and making them available to mobile users on whatever devices and platforms they choose. Yahoo! supports several leading platforms today, including the iPhone, RIM, Windows Mobile, Symbian and others, and will continue working with Yahoo! carrier and device manufacturer partners to deliver our services wherever Yahoo! users need them."
That suggests to me that Yahoo! will ultimately join -- as they should -- to gain the additional distribution that will likely come of the Android platform.
A friend of my LMS colleague Dan Miller's, who shall remain nameless, has raised the specter that the Open Handset Alliance (OHA) will produce a "Tower of Babel" of different experiences and UIs that will make the iPhone even better looking by comparison. The iPhone has the advantage of an elegant integration of hardware and software, whereas the multitude involved with the OHA represent a range of possible scenarios in terms of outputs and user experiences.
I don't share this largely pessimistic view, but it's worth considering.
I believe, by contrast, that like evolutionary "experiments" in nature there will probably be a number of hardware software combinations that don't really work and don't survive. But there will also be spectacular successes that will emerge from this.
At a Kelsey conference I had planned several years ago, InfoSpace CEO Jim Volker lamented the lack of cooperation among wireless carriers and suggested that the industry had suffered in specific ways as a result. The OHA may be able to overcome some of that "Balkanization." We'll see.
What's clear, however, is that the US industry is not going to remain in its current "walled garden" configuration indefinitely.
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In a potentially industry-changing move, Google has announced an open-source mobile platform and an alliance of mobile industry heavyweights, including carriers and OEMs, that contributed to and are embracing the platform. The intention is to push cost, fragmentation and complexity out of developing for the mobile Internet and help create dramatically improved user experiences to drive mobile Internet adoption.
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Pure speculation about a branded "GPhone" or Google mobile OS is giving way to some suggested details provided by the typical anonymous sources in this CNET piece about what Google may be set to announce on Monday. Here's the WSJ's blog coverage.
Here's our previous coverage about the anticipated Google move. Whatever emerges, Google's aim is to accelerate the development of better and more usable mobile experiences for consumers, which will in turn lead to faster monetization.
Voice search provider CallGenie has acquired directory assistance automator and "converged information services provider" BTSLogic. The company offers a range of "solutions" to the DA market, including:
These complement and help round out CallGenie's current capabilities, bolstering its competitive position and ability to offer a broad range of enhanced services to customers. According to the release:
The BTSLogic acquisition will allow Call Genie to offer its customers a full business name and business category search solution for consumer paid and free directory assistance offerings. The combined product set will include business category search, speech automation, ad placement, business name search, and operator work station and is expected to extend Call Genie's reach within its key target markets.
In a move that speaks to the broader cultural impact of the oft-discussed iPhone -- and also, paradoxically, the increasing irrelevance of Time -- the magazine has named Apple's watershed mobile device its "invention of the year." The article that announces the award is surprisingly short on substance, and mostly a high-level summary of observations that have come long before from other sources.
Once upon a Time, so to speak, such an award would have merited greater reverence and interest. But this piece merely states the obvious (or mostly obvious) and serves to remind us of how "thin" and marginal news weeklies are becoming.
BusinessWeek's technology coverage is very good and an exception to what I said above.
Mobile messaging and advertising platform 4INFO announced that Peacock Equity, a joint venture of GE Commercial Finance and NBC Universal, has made an investment in the company (undisclosed amount). Peacock's stake will lead to broad use of 4INFO to power NBC content-related SMS alerts, interactive voting and other text-based communications with fans. NBC will also reportedly supplement its mobile content with some of 4INFO's content and services. Both companies will sell ads into the NBC-related text messaging and split the revenue.
This relationship is a much bigger deal for 4INFO that previous investor Gannett, which drives considerable 4Info traffic through prompts in USAToday to get sport scores and stock quotes via text.
4INFO has previous investments from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Gannett, Sand Hill Capital and U.S. Venture Partners.
Here's a related and semi-contradictory earlier release about NBC's mobile efforts with SinglePoint. Zaw Thet with 4INFO clarified the relationships in an email to me:
For NBC content/shortcodes, 4INFO is only providing the advertising platform. Singlepoint will continue to host and manage the voting, etc, but we will be providing the ads. This is a slight departure from most of our partners that use our publishing and advertising platforms. It isn't explicit, but the net is that we now have an ad server that you can integrate with 3rd party publishing solutions.
Garmin Ltd., the world's largest maker of personal navigation devices, on Wednesday unveiled an unsolicited 2.3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) takeover offer for Dutch digital map maker Tele Atlas NV, topping an offer by rival TomTom NV by 15%.
Tele Atlas, which had endorsed the TomTom bid, said it was now reviewing its options. A TomTom spokesman declined to comment while the company studies the 24.50 euro-a-share Garmin bid.
In September, Nokia announced that it was buying Tele Atlas competitor Navteq for $8.1 billion. A third, smaller company that offers traffic-related mapping data INRIX just received a series C round of $15 million. Traffic.com is owned by Navteq (soon Nokia).
Mobile classifieds platform Gumiyo announced that it had raised a second round of funding. The company characterizes itself as a mobile marketplace but it's attacking the traditional classifieds categories: jobs, cars, real estate and dating.
While there's no question that people will eventually want access "on the go" to classifieds content; the questions are when and whether a mobile-only site can succeed. Gumiyo is competing with a small number of other mobile classifieds vendors, but a far larger group of online classifieds providers that are building WAP sites or SMS capabilities (e.g., Craigslist, Oodle, Cars.com).
Content critical mass is critical. And there, absent partnerships for data, the established online brands will win. In addition those providers already have usage and to varying degrees consumer trust. And the mobile market and related consumer use of mobile for classifieds is not yet well established enough to support a mobile only provider.
A more likely scenario and model for a company like Gumiyo would be as a platform and mobile enabler of third-party classifieds publishers such as traditional newspapers and local "shoppers." While that's not as sexy as a B2C play it's more likely to succeed.
On the heels of WSJ reporting that Verizon had done a quick turnaround and was in talks with Google about offering phones with the search engine's software, Reuters now reports that Sprint is engaged in similar conversations:
Sprint Nextel Corp, the No. 3 U.S. mobile service, is in talks to put applications from Web search leader Google Inc on its cell phones, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Google is in talks with some of the largest
U.S.wireless carriers to make a deeper move into the mobile industry, an area it views as key to future growth.
While the company has not commented on its plans or potential partners, industry experts believe it will soon launch new software and services for mobile phones.
On Tuesday, sources told Reuters that No. 2 U.S. mobile service Verizon Wireless, a Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc venture, is also in talks with Google about putting applications on its mobile phones.
As the article also points out, Google has an existing partnership with Sprint, chiefly around the planned (but now uncertain) build out of an ambitious WiMax network. Microsoft has an extensive mobile partnership with the carrier, which is currently deeper than Google's.
What seems to be happening more broadly is that Google is successfully persuading US carriers to work with the company. Formerly there was considerable resistance on the grounds that Google would eventually take over the consumer relationship and the carrier would be relegated to the status of a "mobile ISP."
I have no authority for this but perhaps there's a pledge not to go up against them in the forthcoming 700MHZ spectrum auction if they will work with Google to incorporate its software on some of their phones. That sort of accommodation would address one of Google's central concerns with mobile: distribution.
LMS has estimated the US mobile advertising market, across all segments, will be worth approximately $2.3 billion by 2012. If Europe is added in, the combined market is worth roughly $5.08 billion by 2012.