Yahoo makes risky U-turn on mobile apps strategy
Just as most contenders for mobile web leadership – even Microsoft – move towards multiple platforms, Yahoo is going in the opposite direction, scrapping its new mobile application on all systems apart from iPhone.
Yahoo has repeatedly made strong technology moves in the mobile field and then marred them by poor commercial decisions, and this is probably the worst of those, as it reverts to focusing almost entirely on browser-based services, at a time when the growth lies in downloadable apps, optimized for individual handsets or operating systems.
That trend may reverse as the mobile browser experience improves, and starts to deliver the dream of a 'single web' that behaves the same on PCs and phones. But Yahoo is not future-thinking in its decision, which seems merely like a cost cutting activity – and in one of the areas where the troubled software house actually had a chance to excel and to expand on the good relations it has built with many operators, especially in Asia, through its search engine.
The application, only announced in February, looked like a strong bid for Yahoo to steal a march on Google and the others, especially the forthcoming Java implementation, which would be highly portable and could ride the coming trend for the mobile web to move into more basic handsets without full blown OSs.
Now development has stopped entirely, except on the iPhone version, which was already launched (as well as Java, there was due to be a BlackBerry app). A notice to anybody applying for the app reads: "Yahoo has decided to cease development of the Yahoo Mobile smartphone app effective Wednesday May 20. So you will not be provided access to the beta program for this product. For the time being, we will be focusing our efforts on the newly launched Yahoo Mobile experience for browsers and for the iPhone."
The beta test of the new-look Yahoo Mobile was announced at Mobile World Congress in February, tempting users with the promise of a personalized and easy-to-use entry point to the web. This aimed to integrate diverse Yahoo mobile services under one user interface – in particular, Yahoo oneSearch, oneConnect (email, messaging, contacts and social networking), News and onePlace (for accessing and managing preferred content from a single location).
As well as redesigning the web site for those preferring to access Yahoo services from the browser, the highlight was the richer downloadable app, which mirrored the site's features and look, but with more capabilities and better performance on the target devices.