Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, who was scheduled to speak at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this morning, has been bitten by a flu bug and didn't make it to center stage today. But that's OK - her team was on-hand for a media breakfast and shared her vision with reporters.
I spent some time chatting with David Ko, a 10-year Yahoo veteran who oversees the mobile division, this morning. We talked about the balancing act that folks in the mobile space are dealing with and the various forces at work: new mobile platforms, changing user demands, a growing number of devices and new traffic jams on mobile data networks.
Unlike Google, which has its mobile focus centered around the Android mobile operating system and integrating its various online tools into mobile devices, Yahoo is focused on the mobile experience.
Experience, of course, is Yahoo's latest buzz word. The company's new $100 million marketing campaign is centered around the user and the company is working hard to give real users what they want, not what Yahoo thinks they want. Ko, for example, spent a few years living overseas, interacting with and observing the way that people in emerging markets in parts of Asia and Latin America, for example, are using mobile devices. It's different than what's happening in the U.S. and advanced countries in Europe.
The thing about mobile, Ko said, is that it's not cannibalizing the PC experience. Instead, the two compliment each other. And that makes us more efficient, he said. Think about it: how many people out there are using their phones to manage some e-mail over breakfast, on the train or even in the elevator up to the office. It used to be that folks would get to the office and spend an hour or so knocking out some e-mails, maybe checking on the status updates of Facebook friends and catching stock portfolios. Because of mobile. we've already done all of that by the time we get to our desks.
But that only works when the mobile tools create an experience that's just as welcoming as the experience on a PC browser.
Mobile today is not what mobile will look like in 5 years, he said. It's constantly evolving and, already, mobile means different things to different users. The trick for Yahoo is to create a user experience that's good for everyone - from the power user to the casual user, from the Wall Street stock chaser to the teenager obsessed with celebrity news.
Through customization - whether on the PC home page or mobile home page - Yahoo is giving users the tools that they need to make their experience a good one. Yahoo sees that - not building operating systems or mobile devices - as the key to keeping users engaged.