Yahoo!'s oneConnect: who will use it?

Matthew Miller got excited about the preview of Yahoo!'s oneConnect at the World Mobile Congress.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Matthew Miller got excited about the preview of Yahoo!'s oneConnect at the World Mobile Congress. In Matthew's words:

Yahoo’s new oneConnect is one of the top pieces of software/services I saw in action.

The rep was giving a demonstration on a Nokia N95 8GB device and it was running well. I was not allowed to video the service in action, but my buddy Jonathan Greene was able to capture some video of the software working on a PC monitor before anyone said video was not allowed. Yahoo oneConnect solves the problem that many of us social networking fans have and that is to bring all of your social networks into one integrated aggregator where you can view status, view online presence, interact via SMS, IM, email, phone, and more. It seems quite brilliant to me and I am excited about the 2nd quarter release. The first client will be a Java client so it will work very well on the 3G-enabled Nokia N95 that I have as my main device right now.

But who will use it? The latest figures say Nokia sold 7 million N95's out of a total 1 billion mobile units shipped in 2007. That doesn't register as a market leader. More important, will it actually work? Matthew thinks so but if it is anything like the YahooGo service then it will need more development effort. I have YahooGo on my N95. While the interface is great, it has a tough time loading when accessed via our GPRS network. Most of the time it fails. I hope that Yahoo! is watching out for this problem. Even assuming Nokia gains more traction, will oneConnect be limited to 'edge' cases like us?

Earlier today, Dan Farber explained the extent of the problem - if there is one - in the context of social networking for the enterprise. Quoting Andrew McAfee, Dan notes:

We need to keep in mind that most E2.0 tools are new, and that their acceptance depends on shifts in perspective on the part of business leaders and decision makers, shifts for which the word ‘seismic’ might not be an overstatement.

I personally disagree with Andrew's argument which I've now been hearing for over two years. Many of the tools he references go back a number of years so while they may be 'new' to the enterprise, they're hardly new as products/services. It isn't the perspective that needs to change, it is the mindset, tied to a vision of solutions that deliver tangible business value.

Dan thinks that 'social networking adoption will sneak up on companies' and is predicting 2009 as the breakout year. I'm less confident. Dan uses a Forrester analysis to illustrate why take up is slow. While Forrester may have the right result, it has asked the wrong question. Tools are not solutions and business doesn't buy tools anymore.

One way Dan's prediction might come true is through the creeping use of applications that make sense for business. One example comes from Masabi that has developed a mobile ticketing system for rail travel. The app works for the 90 per cent of people who don't have leading edge mobile devices and has broad appeal. It wouldn't be a stretch to extend the concept to flight ticketing. Tie that to ideas similar to Dopplr's social travel service and you've got an instant use case for social computing that works if shoehorned into the mobile form factor AND is made seamlessly available in the PC/cloud environment. During the World Mobile Congress, I saw a recently enhanced version of WorldMate Live from Mobimate that is currently being offered to Blackberry users. The service is designed as a helper application for the traveler. It contains the rudiments of social computing with the ability to email colleagues, built-in Outlook integration and push alerts to mobile for events like delays and alternative routings.

As I said in an earlier post, the mobile world seems short on ideas that have broad business market appeal. Perhaps that's because so much of what is currently headline grabbing has more obvious consumer appeal. But if devices like the N95 are being positioned as content creation devices (with video streaming etc) then business devices like Nokia's E series and Blackberry should be taking a lead. At present, there is a disconnect between the device makers and the content inventors. That will hold back progress. We commentators are fond of saying that world's are converging and/or flattening. If you're talking about email or your personal social network then you're probably right. If you're talking about consumer and enterprise in the sense of social computing apps coupled to mobile that add value then I don't see much evidence of that happening. Even at the 'edge.'

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