What makes him powerful: Yahoo dominated headlines throughout 2008, mostly for all the wrong reasons. After rejecting rival Microsoft's unsolicited $44.6 billion buyout bid, the struggling web services giant found itself under siege from activist investor Carl Icahn. Icahn threatened a proxy battle if the deal was not consummated and claimed that Yahoo's board "acted irrationally and lost the faith of shareholders" by turning down Microsoft's $33 per share takeover offer. Microsoft and Yahoo continued their mating dance for months, with Microsoft finally withdrawing its offer in early May--with its market capitalization in tatters, Yahoo soon after inked a non-exclusive search advertising alliance with rival Google, prompting many executives and senior employees to leave the firm after losing confidence in co-founder CEO Jerry Yang's ability to right the ship.
Swept aside in the takeover soap opera were the significant advances made by Yahoo's mobile unit under the leadership of Marco Boerries, head of Yahoo's Connected Life Division, which encompasses its mobile, digital home, PC client and broadband teams around the globe. With Yahoo's traditional web revenues eroding, the company is looking to the mobile platform as the next evolution of its business, and Boerries has responded with a series of new initiatives. At January's Consumer Electronics Show, Yahoo debuted a revamped Yahoo Go 3.0 mobile portal, a new mobile advertising initiative and, perhaps most significantly, its fledgling Mobile Developer Platform to third-party applications. In the months to follow, Yahoo announced a new multi-platform advertising effort dubbed Apex, a mobile content management solution called onePlace, a voice-enabled version of its oneSearch mobile search application and a mobile advertising revenue agreement with AT&T, not to mention a number of additional international search and marketing deals.
But Boerries must solve--on the mobile web--the same conundrum Yahoo faces on the wired web--specifically, how to keep pace with the seemingly unstoppable force that is Google. Consumer research provider Nielsen Mobile reports that Google dominated mobile web searches in the first quarter of 2008, accounting for 61 percent of mobile queries during the three-month period in question, while Yahoo was a distant second with 18 percent. Yahoo has largely reinvented its mobile image in the likeness of its opponent, opening its platform to third-party development and pinning its revenue hopes on mobile advertising--the problem is that Google, as well as Microsoft, can lay claim to mobile operating systems of their own, a huge tactical advantage that severely limits Yahoo's mobile scope and reach. However, a flurry of recent breakthroughs--including an idle-screen ad deal with Nokia and the debut of the oneConnect social networking app for Apple's iPhone--proves Boerries isn't going down without a fight.