Yahoo moves ahead with new products

Yahoo hopes to deflect the attention from the recent firing of CEO Carol Bartz to a bunch of new products.
Written by Jay Greene, Contributor on

Yahoo's Livestand (Credit: Yahoo)

SUNNYVALE, Calif.--Yahoo debuted a handful of new products, including its Livestand, a digital newsstand for tablets and smartphones, at its annual Product Runway event this morning.

The offerings come despite ongoing corporate turmoil that could easily overshadow the event.

The September firing of Chief Executive Carol Bartz and rumors swirling about potential suitors or a new CEO for the company remove some of the focus on the latest Yahoo offerings. But for all its challenges, Yahoo remains a massive Web presence, and its products are among the most widely used on the Internet.

Livestand is the most anticipated of the new products. It brings together content from publishers as well as Yahoo's news sites in a magazine-like format. And it allows personalization to give users the content they want.

"It's beautiful. It's fast. You will forget that it's HTML5," said Blake Irving, Yahoo's executive vice president and chief product officer.

Livestand includes more than 100 titles, including ABC News, Forbes, Parenting, Bike, Powder, and Surfer. The app also also lets users watch video. Irving said an Android verison of Livestand will arrive in the first half of next year.

Livestand puts Yahoo in direct competition with the innovative Flipboard app for the iPad, as well as Google's similar Propeller product that's slated to debut soon. Irving said that Yahoo does not have a plan to have Livestand installed out of the factory on the iPad or Android devices.

Livestand was demoed in February, and Irving defended the time it took to bring the product to market.

"We did an ass-kicking job to get this into shape with quality," Irving said. "We feel quite good about that."

Yahoo is also adding three new social features to Yahoo News to aid discovery and navigation through friends' Web movements. It's introducing a Conversations feature, which enables people to have small group conversations within Yahoo News using Facebook or e-mail contacts.

Those e-mails will surface with Yahoo's new Notifications feature. A small red bubble will pop up when users are logged in to inform people that their friends have suggested something to read.

"It's all about creating conversations with friends around content," said Mike Kerns, Yahoo's vice president, personalization and social.

Yahoo said Conversations and Notifications will be available in "the coming weeks."

Yahoo also launched the iPad version of IntoNow, the app that detects what TV programs users are watching and lets them share over social networks. Increasingly, TV viewers are taking their iPads with them as they watch TV. Not for all programming--TV viewers aren't interested in Web surfing while watching movies--but when watching news, users often want to find more information on the Web.

With the new IntoNow iPad app, Yahoo detects the program users are watching and figures out the content through closed captioning. Then it surfaces relevant stories from the Web.

The company also debuted a new Android app, Yahoo Weather. Using crowdsourced photos from its Flickr photo-sharing service, the app puts pictures in the background of the weather app that correspond to the location, time of day, and current weather conditions. If it's clear in London at 8 p.m., a shot of Big Ben lit up in that city's skyline might appear behind the forecast. The app is a free download in 35 languages and 63 countries.

With regard to the turmoil roiling Yahoo, Irving said the leadership at the company has helped keep Yahoo's operational focus in tact.

"We all know what we're doing...There's very little confusion," Irving said. "Sure, the other noise that's out there, you're talking about it at parties. But we have dreams about what this company can be."

About Jay Greene
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and covers Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. He's the author of the book, Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons (Penguin/Portfolio). He started writing about Microsoft and technology in 1998, first as a reporter for The Seattle Times and later as BusinessWeek's Seattle bureau chief.

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