Editor's Corner: Yahoo!, Google announce new mobile services

According to a report (sub. req.) in The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! will launch a branded handset with SBC and Nokia that will operate on Cingular's network. The phone, which will not be out for some time, will play mobile music and video and can take 1.3 megapixel pictures. It will cost around $200 to $300. Based on the feature set, the phone is probably a Series 60 device like the 6682. The Yahoo! venture is not an MVNO; the company is just using its existing relationship with SBC for DSL service to launch a branded phone, loaded with Yahoo! content and apps that link to Yahoo! online services.

While Yahoo! is cozying up to the carriers, Google is taking a different approach. The rival search giant has launched a free J2ME app that provides Google Local search, directions, and mapping. This approach seems to imply that Google expects carriers to play a smaller role in manging what data services their customers access. Google Local for Mobile (GLM) still has a few kinks to work out (no support for BlackBerry or Palm devices, for starters), but the interface is very slick and will almost certainly be a success. GLM also opens up some interesting possibilities for Google Maps mashups made specifically for mobile users.

C. Enrique Ortiz argues that the overarching lesson of these two announcements is simple: mobile offerings must find a way to bring meaning and value to customers. That seems pretty hard to disagree with. -Eli