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CES: Yahoo to get back to yodeling

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In his first major speech since taking over as chief executive, a casually dressed Jerry Yang (polo shirt and khakis), set the tone for the new Yahoo Inc.

It sounded a lot like the Yahoo of old, the one he co-founded -- but pretty different from the Hollywood approach former CEO Terry Semel took at CES the last few years.

"It's still the same old face," Yang said, after walking out onto the stage, emphasizing the similarity of his mission to the one Yahoo launched with 13 years ago. But, he said, he and co-founder David Filo
have learned a lot since then. Yang's conclusion: "It is time to get Yahoo yodeling again."

All eyes are on Yang to see if he can make good on his promise to recharge the struggling Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company. As Yang demonstrated new products for cellphones and future products for making Yahoo more social on Monday morning, he betrayed none of the pressures he faces as he tries to turnaround a company whose high-profile setbacks and missteps led to the management shake-up that returned him to the helm and the CES spotlight.

So far, the market hasn't been kind. Since Yang took over Yahoo, its stock price has fallen nearly 18%.

At CES, Yang underscored his message to Wall Street and Main Street: Yahoo wants to become the starting point for consumers' Internet experience. To do so, he says Yahoo would take the complexity out of the Web experience and simplify people's lives through powerful technologies.

"Making the Web simple is still the goal," Yang said.

A big part of that goal is generating advertising revenue from the mobile market as more people use cellphones to surf the Internet. Yahoo faces stiff competition in that area from Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and other major players.

Yang called onto the stage Marco Boerries, Yahoo's executive vice president for Connected Life, to show off a new Yahoo.com home page with a fresh layout and more content as well as news ways in which users can access personalized content from other website such as News Corp.'s MySpace. Boerries also introduced Yahoo Go 3.0 that runs on phones from some manufacturers. The idea, he said, is to give users easier access to e-mail, search, news, weather, maps and other services.

MySpace, EBay Inc. and MTV Networks each have created mobile services that are accessible through the new Yahoo home page and Yahoo Go.

Another big push is to encourage software developers to create Web programs to run on the phones. Yahoo also introduced software that lets advertisers create promotions for cellphones.

Yang also gave what he called a "concept" demonstration of what Yahoo will introduce next for the desktop, steps he said that tap into users' social connections to make their Internet experience more
personal and relevant. The demonstration revolved around the Yahoo e-mail inbox and new technology that can determine a user's most relevant personal connections and prioritize important messages based
on frequency and volume. He also showed how the "smarter" inbox, which included e-mails, instant
messages and voice mails, would be able to interact with other services such as maps and invitations.

 

-- Jessica Guynn

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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