Yahoo Mail benefits from being 'Switzerland of Internet'

As the Internet company is not tied to any mobile operating system, it is easier to cooperate with third parties which do not see it as a competitor, says executive.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Yahoo Mail benefits from the company's OS (operating system) neutrality which makes it easier to collaborate with third parties such as telcos, OS players and Internet service providers, says head of Yahoo Mail who aims to make its e-mail service the default choice for cross-platform e-mail.

yahoo mail revamp screen
Yahoo Mail

During a media briefing here Monday, Vivek Sharma, general manager for Yahoo Mail and Messenger, said: "Yahoo is increasingly the Switzerland of the Internet. We are available across all platforms. We're also everybody's friend because we do not compete with the operating system (OS) providers or the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)."

Sharma was speaking about Yahoo Mail's advantage compared with other e-mail services tied to a user's mobile device. For example, Google Android requires a Google account while Windows 8 requires a Microsoft account to operate. "The reality is, if you look at our growth across the world, we have users adopting Mail across all platforms. The reason is that the product is more suitable for their needs," he said.

Using cloud storage as an example, Sharma showed how Yahoo Mail can co-exist with default e-mail services tied to a mobile platform.

"Just like mail, all platforms provide cloud storage," he said, pointing to Apple iCloud and Google Drive as examples. Despite the default cloud storage services, cross-platform cloud storage Dropbox still exists, he said.

Yahoo Mail has 110 million users accessing their accounts each day, logging in a total of 35 million hours in 190 million sessions, Sharma said, adding that a quarter of Yahoo Mail's Internet traffic comes from Asia-Pacific.

Becoming e-mail service of choice for cross-platform devices
Sharma was in town to promote Yahoo's revamped Mail service for the Web and apps for the Apple iPhone, Google Android and Microsoft Windows 8. He noted that Yahoo was the only Web mail provider which has branded apps for the three popular OS.

He believes that the revamped Yahoo Mail's easier navigation, faster access and consistent user experience across different platforms will be key to success.

"Users want to use product that serves their needs best," he said. "If you have a native client provided with the mobile OS, and a branded client provided by one of the leading e-mail provider in the world, the question you are going to ask is, 'What solves the problem faster?'" he said.

"As a user, I don't want to be aligned to any platform, I want to have the same experience that is available across the platforms," he said.

Enticing first time Web users to Yahoo Mail
According to Sharma, out of the 6 billion population on Earth, only about 2 billion have Internet access, among which 1 to 1.5 billion have signed up for e-mail service.

Many of these unconnected users will be using the Internet for the first time through a mobile device. "The opportunity to provide e-mail service to the remaining 4 billion, who will come to Internet predominantly through mobile, is huge," he said.

To entice first-time mobile Internet users to the Web mail service, Sharma said it is critical to have apps for different the platform. "If the Yahoo Mail app is not available [on the mobile OS], the rest is moot," he said.

He added that product performance is important in attracting users to the service. Yahoo Mail also has the advantage of top of mind awareness as it is part of the Yahoo global brand, he added.

"One of the first three things that first-time Internet users do on mobile Internet is to sign up for an e-mail account because it's such a big part of our daily experience. What we want to do is, as more and more people adopt smartphones, which device they come to, they have a consistent Yahoo Mail experience," he said.

Sharma also believes that having a faster, easier and cross-platform mail service will help lure back Yahoo Mail users to the service. "When you focus on the users, good thing will follow," he said.

While Sharma acknowledged that Yahoo Mail for the Web was one of the company's biggest sources for advertising revenue, he downplayed the revamped service's monetization plans. "If users like and engage with the product, monetization will follow...The reality is, advertisers come when users are engaged with the product," he said.

Rival Google recently launched Freezone with selected telcos in emerging markets, which provides users with free data connectivity to its services such as Gmail, search and Google Plus.

Asked if Yahoo had similar plans, a spokesperson pointed to the company's previous partnerships with operators to bring the Internet to new Web users in Asia by offering plans which remove price uncertainty regarding data costs.

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