Yahoo follows suit: presents development platform for mobile

After all the buzz in the back-end of last year over the Google-led Open Handset Alliance and their Android OS, Yahoo! has now presented its own view on how to reduce the complexity within the mobile landscape by announcing a development platform for "mobile internet applications".

It is, alas, not the full bag of tricks: Unlike Android, which is of course basically an OS, the Yahoo! scheme only foresees tools to allow the creation of widgets to run under the company's Yahoo! Go mobile service or in any mobile web browser. This means that "mobile internet applications" in Yahoo speak do not include "classic" mobile applications (developed in J2ME, BREW, Symbian, etc, and then downloaded to a user's phone), and the latter will not benefit from the initiative.

The question (and this may well be one of the big ones for 2008) is therefore if the (short) age of downloadable applications is already dawning. Because, unlike the Internet, mobile is a cluttered space with a gazillion operating systems and middleware layers on even more different devices competing for market share. Ease to port applications at least across handsets and ideally also across operating systems is therefore the crucial factor. Only if downloadable applications (including indeed a software package like Yahoo! Go) really are displaced by the mobile internet proper would this change.

Commentators note that Yahoo! Go is not normally available on handsets as most tier-1 operators will (and apparently each and every US carrier currently does) simply remove pre-installed applications prior to delivery to customers. However, this does not seem to matter too much as far as the new initiative is concerned as it is said to run on every browser, too. It may take away from discovery and therefore usage so this is where it appears to chip away on the benefits: Whilst the Yahoo! move would seem the much less complex initiative compared to Google's attempts to take on the OS heavyweights, it comes at the cost of lower usability for users and also less actual benefit for developers: why would you develop for that platform if visibility, discovery, usage and therefore commercial reward are foggy at best?

I'm not convinced (yet).


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