Yahoo's widgets

09 Jan 2008

Panasonic plans to bring YouTube straight to the box. Bill Gates believes the "second digital decade" will be about connecting homes, cars, mobile phones and everything else. Sony will embed Skype into its PlayStation.

All worthy news, but for the telecom sector, the biggest news item out of the Consumer Electronics Show is Yahoo's plans for mobile.

The company issued five press announcements, which gave CEO Jerry Yang plenty of material to work through in his keynote.

Yang showed off the new Yahoo mobile home page, and gave a demo of how on the new platform applications can be integrated, though he stressed it was only a concept phone at this stage.

But the key news was the mobile developer platform, and in particular the widgets. These are intended to overcome the proliferation of different software stacks, which is one of the biggest constraints to mobile web adoption. Typically, new apps have to be re-written for different OS and sometimes different handsets running the same OS.

If Yahoo's widgets go even part of the way to solving that, Yang is on a winner. But he will need to convince not just app developers but also cellco CTOs, who at this point are thinking, "just what we need - yet another platform".

Of course, this is all about matching it with Google and Microsoft, who are competing to provide the underlying handset OS itself. The evolution of Google's Linux-based Android will be one of the more important stories in mobile this year.

But Yahoo's widgets approach promise a simpler and faster way of getting the interoperability operators and users crave. We'll learn more when the first apps from eBay and MySpace appear later this week.

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