Yahoo co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang made his inaugural CES appearance, outlining how he plans to evolve his company ahead of the curve and to become an indispensable starting point for consumers' Web experience, which has become richer and more complex over the last decade. "We call this Life with an exclamation point," Yang said. "At Yahoo we want to be most essential starting point for your life," and "take the complexity of the Web and simplify your life through very powerful technologies."
Yang said that more people use Yahoo as their starting point, via Yahoo Mail, MyYahoo. search and the Yahoo home page. We possess so much of basic tools and services to make life on the Web simpler, he proclaimed.
For the first time, Yang showed what the company has been up to in developing a next generation user experience that unites it various services in a social context. Yang labeled the demo a sneak peak and not a product announcement, but it is very well thought out as a service the integrates email, structured data, social context, tags and a variety of other applications.
Yahoo Mail (communication services) serves as the hub, but the interface also includes third-party applications and social context. Connections are contacts, and based on frequency and volume of communications email is reordered on the strength of the connections. The page also includes updates from connections, showing what is relevant rather than just relatively static inbox.
Third parties applications can be accessed via the interface as well are recommended services from friends. My Conversations is a way for Yahoo Mail and an inbox to digest various threads, Yang said. He gave an example of planning a dinner for CES. You can drag the thread into a map and it will bring up the profiles of those on the mail, note preferences (for food in this case) and suggest restaurants in the area. You can also take an email message and pop up the profiles of those on the message, and extract an address from email and show it a map.
David Filo came on stage, talking about openness and integrating Zimbra (acquired by Yahoo last year) and opening up Yahoo's platform more broadly to other developers.
"You will definitely see pieces this year, but we need to make sure security is there with the apps," said Brad Garlinghouse, senior vice president of communications and communities. "We are leveraging the user interface and data to create new functionality." In part, the new functionality will come from Zimbra, he noted.
Yahoo also announced a new version of its Yahoo Go mobile platform. "The future is about making the Web experience simpler and more efficient for everyone," he added. As evidence of that goal, Marco Boerries, executive vice president for Yahoo's Connected Life experience, demoed enhancements to the Yahoo Go platform (version 3.0) for mobile devices. He showed widgets for email and Flickr that make it much easier to compose messages and share photos. Yahoo Go 3.0 also remembers what users did last with their mobile widgets and has a carousel for easier navigation.
Yahoo also revamped its mobile home page to make it easier to navigate. We are opening up the Yahoo home page to the entire Internet," Boerries said. Yahoo "openness" is in its "Snippet Gallery," which are feeds and services that can be embedded in Yahoo pages. MySnippets offer previews to services, such as weather, news, stocks and sports, that you use in a single screen. Yahoo Go 3.0 will be supported on 30 devices when it goes into beta. Version 2.0 is supported on 300 devices.
"As part of our strategy to enable an ecosystem target at billions of users, we have to support the greatest number of devices," Boerries said. Yahoo Go will work on any phone that has a browser supporting HTML or XHTML.
Yahoo is also opening its mobile platform to outside programmers, allowing them to create mobile widgets that can be embedded on Yahoo Go. Viacom, MySpace and Ebay were announced as partners building widgets for the Yahoo Go platform." Widget developers and advertisers can also take advantage of Yahoo advertising tools as part of the mobile experience.
Yahoo is also working with Motorola, LG and Access to run widgets natively on their mobile devices, Boerries said.
Yang took over as CEO about seven months ago, and is tasked with bringing Yahoo back to its former glory in the Web universe. Yahoo's stock price has plunged by about 18 percent as Google shares have risen more than 20 percent during Yang's reign as CEO. The notion of being the starting point for billions of people on the Web isn't much different from the original concept underlying Yahoo. But the new version of Yahoo Go and the sneak peak of the next generation communications hub demonstrate that Yang and company might rise up again.