SAN FRANCISCO (03/22/2000) - Yahoo Inc. achieved early success as one of the first portals, where Web newbies chose to find well-organized information. Now, the company is trying to reprise its pioneer role for users of Web-enabled mobile phones.
For the past six months, Yahoo users have had limited access to many Yahoo functions through a Sprint PCS Web-enabled mobile phone. With competitors such as MSN and AOL pushing into the wireless portal game, Yahoo is raising the ante.
On Monday, Yahoo Everywhere launched the Yahoo Wireless Directory, Yahoo Auction to Go, and Yahoo Movies on the Move. Yahoo users were already able to access their e-mail, calendar, address book, news, sports, and stock quotes through Sprint's PCS service. Now, users of those personal information management services can access Yahoo's directory of wireless sites, movies, and auctions, and new users can register for Yahoo through the phone, says Fred Johnson, producer of Yahoo Everywhere.
The Yahoo wireless directory indexes hundreds of HDML and WML sites optimized for display on phones with an HDML Web browser (common in the U.S.) or a Wireless Application Protocol browser.
"The directory is aiming to be a comprehensive catalog for good WML and HDML sites," Johnson says.
Before, wireless Yahoo was accessible if you already had a Yahoo account. Now, you can sign up right on your phone.
"We're hoping users who use our service on the phone will realize their username and password work on the PC, too," Johnson says.
Bidding on the Move
Yahoo is also adding services and cutting deals with carriers to promote material of particular use in wireless access. For some services, this takes some creative repackaging.
For example, Internet auctions tend to be large, searchable databases, something you don't want on a two-inch display.
Rather than have you search, Yahoo Auctions to Go lets you manage your auctions, Johnson says. You can monitor auctions you want to track or check ones you're already in. Yahoo alerts you when you are outbid (or win).
"You can turn on the phone and up your bid, as well as look at other auctions you're running," Johnson says.
Movies may not be the killer app of the wireless Web, but checking movie listings is a location-specific service that experts expect will prove popular.
Punch in your zip code, and Yahoo Movies on the Move returns a list of theaters. Choose one to see which movies are playing. You can even speed-dial the theater, Johnson says. But you can't buy tickets through Yahoo; you'll still need to deal with the theater or other ticket services.
How Can You Get It?
Yahoo wireless content is available in HDML and WML for Web phones and in an abbreviated, Web clipping format for Palm VII and palmtops with wireless modems. Currently, Yahoo is a default setting only through Sprint PCS, so you'll need to enter the URL or select a bookmark to access Yahoo on other wireless devices.
"Sprint has seven or eight phones that support the wireless Web," Johnson says.
"This year they're dropping all phones without it."