Mobile search wars hot up

Yahoo has signed a global agreement to provide a portfolio of mobile services to 3 networks.

3 subscribers will get Yahoo Search plus extras such as webmail, Yahoo Messenger, and content via Yahoo’s Mobile Web portal.

This is Yahoo’s first strategic alliance with a global 3G operator. Geraldine Wilson from Yahoo Europe called it a “major milestone in Yahoo’s strategy to extend our user experience ‘beyond the browser’ and across other platforms”.
3 also seems keen: Christian Salbaing, MD Europe Telecom-munications at 3 Group, said: “This relationship isn’t just about us buying more content to put on our portal, its about a deep engagement between our two companies to bring some of the world’s most popular Internet services and content to 3’s networks.”
There are a couple of interesting aspects to this deal. For a start, it obviously represents a win for Yahoo over Google. And it represents a U-turn from 3, which has previously advocated walled-garden internet access for its customers because of ‘concerns over user experience’ – which translates as ‘the internet doesn’t look good or work well on mobile handsets’. This new agreement effectively means full and open web access, and allows 3 to compete with T-Mobile and Vodafone for the small but growing and potentially very lucrative mobile internet market.
3 already has a deal with Microsoft for MSN Messenger and Hotmail – competitors for Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo Mail respectively. This suggests that 3 doesn’t want to be tied too closely to any one partner in the Internet business.
Yahoo has also signed up Motorola to preload its Yahoo Go for Mobile services on handsets. At the start of the year it secured a similar deal with Nokia. The Yahoo Go applications include Yahoo e-mail, search and address book functionality.
In this short-term this kind of endorsement is good news for the likes of 3, validating the choice of Yahoo! as the internet access partner. In the longer run though it could signal the beginning of a conflict between handset manufacturers and network operators – both want to add value to their offerings, and both want to grab the customer’s loyalty.
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