At CES this morning Yahoo announces its Go services, which brings Yahoo e-mail, instant messaging, photo and other services to mobile phones, PC-connected TVs and PCs without using a browser (such via Yahoo Widgets for now). Future features will include programming a DVR over a mobile phone or offering music services through a TV. During his CES keynote, CEO Terry Semel said Go is centered on delivering a seamless experience, personalization and open platforms.
This bundle of services for various devices and functions is about more deeply wiring users into Yahoo. In fact, Yahoo is about IDs (users)--becoming a de facto portal and content provider for any activity online. According to Marco Boerries, senior vice president of Yahoo Connected Life, "We have more than 450 million people coming to us every month, and their lives are locked into the PC browser," said "With a Yahoo ID we connect the whole Internet to your device." For Yahoo, increasing the user base and time spent on Yahoo services = more revenue.
While Google's stock continues to soar, Yahoo is making modest gains (Google's market cap is more than twice Yahoo's), but that doesn't reflect reality. Google doesn't like to call itself a portal, but that's how it is evolving, following Yahoo's and pioneer AOL's lead. Larry Page will announce Google's video on-demand service (similar to iTunes video) today and a software bundle, which is a good indication that Google wants to do more the organize the world's information or provide email and instant messaging. It's all about the content and having the IDs (loyal and deeply wired in users in a permeable environment), which Yahoo has executed on so far better than Google.
Digital convergence at the device level is also drawing lines in the sand. On that front Sony, Intel/Microsoft, Apple and others are trying create the "standard," including DRM, for getting all those digital media devices and formats to work seamlessly. No more confusion about which remote, how to program this device or service, no more questions about whether that LCD screen is part of a TV or computer. In other words, convergence leads to virtual territorial imperatives--exploiting the increasing convergence of content, communications and computing by trying to create de facto standards to direct the flow of revenue. If you go with Intel's Viiv, then Intel and Microsoft (and their partners, including Yahoo) reap the rewards. As we have seen, Apple is reaping a lot of rewards with its convergence platform--iPod.
Yahoo is currently aligned with Microsoft and Intel's Viiv. Does it lead to a conclusion that the rumors of Microsoft acquiring Yahoo have any credence? Doubtful, but it's all about the territorial imperative, which has led to many unexpected alliances. So, you have the Internet portals and the hardware platforms sizing up each other and trying to figure out their next moves. Same as it ever was, in a new era...