Internet giants Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. yesterday unveiled new products designed to boost their visibility beyond computers by using cell phones and television sets to reach a broader audience.
Yahoo and digital-recording company TiVo Inc. launched a service allowing consumers to record television programs from the Yahoo Web site. The deal builds on Yahoo's attempts to expand its entertainment business, and by the end of the year, the company will be able to deliver weather and traffic information to television sets through the service, a Yahoo spokeswoman said. TiVo, meanwhile, will be able to tap Yahoo's millions of users.
"There's a large contingent of online and other media companies that have been vying for a greater presence in the living room," and TiVo, with 3.6 million subscribers, can help deliver that, said Naveen Chopra, director of business development for TiVo.
Yahoo, meanwhile, is trying to establish itself as a seller of online entertainment, and over time that strategy could help TiVo by drawing more users and helping it manage products such as downloaded movies, Chopra said.
Yahoo also plans to partner with SBC Communications Inc. to sell a phone that links to existing Web-based Yahoo services such as e-mail, photos and calendar information. The new phones, which will be introduced early next year on the Cingular Wireless network, build on Yahoo's successful, four-year-old relationship with SBC to sell its Internet service bundled with SBC's high-speed Internet lines.
The new phones will come with an MP3 player, a 1.3-megapixel digital camera and a wireless Bluetooth connection.
"All of this news is about integration of wireless with wire-line services, and broadband and entertainment," said Ashley Blaker, a spokesman for San Antonio-based SBC.
Yahoo's cell phone deal follows Sprint Nextel Corp.'s announcement last week of a partnership with four major cable firms to sell wireless service bundled with cable television and Internet services. As part of that deal, Sprint and the cable companies will combine resources to transmit television broadcasts such as live sporting events and news channels to the wireless phone.
"Everyone's excited about the number of cell phones out there," with 2 billion subscribers worldwide and 200 million in the United States, said Julie Ask, an analyst with Jupiter Research. That is a huge potential audience for paid services such as video or for search-related advertising, Ask said -- though she added it will take years for most consumers to buy into such services.
Google took aim at the mobile phone market yesterday by announcing a new local search service that lets users view satellite maps on their phones and get detailed directions to particular locations. The company does not have plans to put ads on the service, but analysts said it could be a good vehicle for advertising because there is a huge market for localized restaurant, movie, traffic and other information.
Google already offers a service that allows mobile phone users to search for weather information and directions by sending a text message query.
The new service works only on phones with Java-based software, or roughly half of phones from carriers such as T-Mobile USA Inc., Cingular and Sprint. Eventually, Google will tap the global positioning system data in phones to automatically identify the user's location and plot directions, or to find landmarks such as the nearest cafe.
"Local information is one of the first things you need," said Deep Nishar, a manager for Google's mobile products. Google already offers mapping and local search products on the computer, he said, "but this brings it all together."