Yahoo! gives mobile widgets more emphasis in the latest update of its Yahoo! Go services.
Japan’s innovative wireless carrier, NTT DoCoMo, historically has recorded a high number of subscribers accessing its data services. Even though about half of its 40 million subscribers were using data, though, the carrier wanted more.
To reach those subscribers, DoCoMo started using Adobe’s Flash Cast application to build its i-channel services, which allows access to news, sports, weather, games and entertainment. An optional channel from third-party developers could be added for a small fee.
Flash Cast pushes data to phones, so instead of using the phone browser to go out and search for information, it is delivered automatically. Within two years of launching the i-channels with Flash Cast, DoCoMo had signed up an additional 10 million subscribers for the service.
Adobe now has signed deals with Verizon Wireless in the United States and Chungwa in Taiwan for Flash Cast. And Adobe says more than 300 million devices using FlashLite have been shipped.
Julie Ask, research director for Jupiterresearch, cited DoCoMo’s experience in a recent study she did on technologies and services available for carriers to make their subscribers’ data experiences more personal and easy to use. The same study said only 16% of handset owners used the browser on their phones.
Ask points to several other browser alternatives that are gaining a foothold, including Qualcomm’s uiOne and Nokia with its “widsets” or widgets to complement the browser on its S60 smartphone platform. Apple’s iPhone also employs the use of widgets to personalize data access as a complement for its Safari browser. Microsoft spin-off Zumobi also uses widgets to deliver content. Zumobi recently launched the Beta version of its platform with 75 mobile widgets for Windows Mobile handsets.
Mobile widgets commonly use Java software on the handset to allow subscribers to pick and choose what content they want delivered automatically to their handsets. Widgets also can be used to deliver advertising to phones. Sometimes widgets are used with the Internet’s RSS (real simple syndication) technology to deliver information.
Widgets played a central role in Yahoo!’s release at the CES show of Yahoo! Go 3.0. In addition to improving the design of the mobile platform, the 3.0 version of Yahoo! Go allows users to personalize their home page with mobile widgets.
Adam Taggart, a product marketing director for Yahoo! Mobile, says the Internet company wants to make the Web accessible on phones to billions of consumers. To do that, he says, Yahoo! is trying to do the same thing for the mobile Internet that it did for the PC-based Internet a decade ago – provide easy access to information.
Yahoo! launched its mobile widget gallery Jan. 7, while also making its Yahoo! Go platform available to third party developers to add their own widgets. Yahoo!-designed widgets had been available for the 2.0 version, but Taggart says the company wanted to open the platform to drive more innovation. Users can download the widgets from Yahoo!’s site to their phones for a personalized experience.
The new release also includes “snippets” which preview Web content such as news headlines and weather and can be customized. Clicking on a snippet sends the user to a full-featured mobile widget or a related mobile Website.
“If I’m an eBay enthusiast,” he says, “I can add a snippet to my home page and it will keep track of items I’m tracking.”
Widgets included with the launch of 3.0 included ones for eBay, MySpace and Viacom’s MTV News. Those were built by Yahoo! as examples of what can be done. Third-party developers making their own widgets can use Yahoo!’s platform and then submit them to Yahoo! for technical approval.
Another new feature of the Yahoo! Go 3.0 home page are quick links at the bottom of the page, providing fast access to Yahoo! features and other Internet sites use the most. The quick links can be chosen by the user. Yahoo!’s mobile search, oneSearch, has added content from Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers as well as airline flight status information.
Yahoo! Go 3.0 also enables mobile advertising, Taggart says. That includes the ability to use display ads and sponsored search. Yahoo! will make its advertising and monetization tools inside its widget platform so developers can add those elements. The ads can use Yahoo!’s ad network or another one from a third party, he says. Yahoo! launched its Mobile Publisher Services last March, which are designed to help content publishers increase the discovery and monetization of their mobile content.