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Yahoo Needs Cellular Partner For Mobile Search Fight With Google, Microsoft

Providing online services to mobile-phone users will be an engine of revenue growth for Yahoo during the next three years, senior VP Marco Boerries said at CES.

Yahoo on Monday released a revamped version of its Web-browsing and search software for mobile phones as it girds for a market-share fight with Google, Microsoft, and Apple Computer. But Yahoo has yet to sign up a large American cell-phone service provider to preload the software on handsets, which could limit the product's short-term prospects.

Providing online services to mobile-phone users will be an engine of revenue growth for Yahoo during the next three years, senior VP Marco Boerries said during a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Monday, when Yahoo introduced its Go For Mobile 2.0 product.

The software largely dispenses with trying to format Web pages into versions readable on a cell phone's small screen, instead letting users enter search queries for sports scores, stock quotes, travel destinations, and restaurants, and returning information from Yahoo's network of sites. The information that Go For Mobile returns includes photos from Yahoo's Flickr service, and user-generated ratings of restaurants and other destinations. Boerries said Go's search engine, called OneSearch, can deliver instant answers to questions.

Yahoo is competing with Google and Microsoft for advertising revenue linked to Internet content delivered over mobile phones. And Apple this week is expected to disclose details of a mobile phone that includes access to its iTunes music store. Yahoo said it has signed up a dozen cell phone carriers to preload the new version of Go on their phones, including the major Indian cell-phone company Bharti-Airtel. Yahoo will also let mobile users download Go from its Web site.

But Yahoo so far lacks a bundling deal for Go with any of the large American wireless network operators such as Cingular Wireless, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The absence of U.S. carriers could limit Go's uptake in the most lucrative advertising market. Yahoo senior VP Steve Boom says Asian mobile phone operators are "more nimble and ready to try new things" than American and European carriers.

The company is striking other deals to gain share. Yahoo on Monday said it would become the default and exclusive search engine on Opera Software's mobile Web browser, and that Motorola would preload Go 2.0 on two of its phones. But revenue from Go won't be material for Yahoo this year, says Boom, adding, "the mobile search market is still in its infancy."

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