Yahoo knocks Google off T-Mobile home page

John Delaney/Ovum
13 Feb 2008

Yahoo and T-Mobile announced at a joint press conference Tuesday that Yahoo would supplant Google as T-Mobile's mobile search services provider in Europe. The two companies plan to develop a oneSearch experience optimized for T-Mobile subscribers, as well as versions of Yahoo!! services like Flickr, Messenger, Mail, Weather and Finance.

T-Mobile's Christopher Schläffer reportedly stated, We're moving away from the web to something new. We're going to push the answers to the screen, [from a] federation of content sources including content from the device portal, local search, and people and community search. Marco Boerries of Yahoo's Connected Life unit is reported to have added, We're integrated at the operator level, so we understand location, and depending on the keyword and context, we can prepare just the right result. It's search designed with the mobile web in mind.

Amid its current travails, Yahoo doubtless takes some consolation from cocking such a high-profile snook at Google. And justifiably so: well done Yahoo!, for knocking Google off the Web n Walk home page. Combined with its deal to sell advertising space for T-Mobile, today's announcement will be an important boost to Yahoo!'s position as the operators' friend in the hazardous world of the mobile internet.

It's important not to overlook the fact, though, that the Yahoo! deal marks an important shift in T-Mobile's approach to its mobile internet service.

When Web n Walk was first launched, its philosophy was to give users on their handsets the closest thing possible to the experience they get from the web on a PC. Having Google (and not much else) as the home page was all part of that idea, and we remarked on the boldness of T-Mobile's move thus to diminish the profile of its brand, and that of its t-zones portal. It seemed to be flirting with the bit pipe role so dreaded by most other mobile operators.

But since then, Web n Walk has evolved in ways that, we believe, shift it away from that initial philosophy. There was the addition of tabs to the home page, including one for t-zones. Now there's talk of further accretions linking users to pre-determined services, and of a search engine which doesn't just help users to navigate the web. T-Mobile's role is becoming notably more interventionist than the one which it took at the inception of Web n Walk.

By involving itself more in its users' internet experience, T-Mobile evidently hopes to offer them more value; and, we believe, also to build its home page into both a portal and a piece of advertising inventory. Good goals to shoot for. But the risk is that T-Mobile will discover that its users really preferred it when T-Mobile gave them access to the web, and then get out of their way.

John Delaney, Principal Analyst

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