MANILA, JUNE 28, 2008
(STAR) By Carina Roncesvalles - Yahoo! Mobile extends its potential subscriber base in the Philippines as it partners with Smart Communications and Sun Cellular. Its mobile search service, Yahoo! oneSearch, was initially available only to subscribers of Globe Telecom.

David Ko, managing director and vice president of Yahoo! Connected Life for the Asia-Pacific, said the partnerships with the Philippines’ top three carriers would allow Yahoo! to potentially reach all mobile subscribers in the country.

“The Philippines is a great and growing market for Yahoo! Mobile. Our number one focus last year was extending our reach. We did a lot of good things with Globe last year. Now that we have the opportunity with Smart and Sun, there is tremendous opportunity to make our service even better,” Ko told Manila-based journalists at the sidelines of the recent CommunicAsia in Singapore.

He added that 85 percent of the 20 million Internet users in the Philippines use Yahoo! and majority, if not all of them use mobile phones.

Yahoo! oneSearch was launched in the United States last year to give mobile phone users access to mobile websites and relevant information such as news, financial information, weather, Flickr photos, information from Yahoo! Answers around the globe, Web images, as well as Web and mobile websites.

The mobile-centric markets such as the Philippines, Indonesia and India prompted Yahoo! to invest heavily in Internet products and services that used to be only available on computers.

Last year, Yahoo! Mobile focused on increasing its user base. This year, it will focus on the challenge of increasing mobile Internet usage.

Yahoo! oneSearch is designed for mobile devices to deliver results directly on the first screen, without the need to navigate through a sea of web links.

Apart from oneSearch to get answers to anything, Yahoo! Mobile also makes it possible to read, reply and search e-mails, and mail alerts via text message.

Yahoo! Local, meanwhile, acts as a personal guide if you need to make a decision on what movie to watch and where to dine. Yahoo! delivers in-depth, local information that is current, accurate and easy to follow.

Next strategy: Mobile advertising

Ko further said the next strategy is to promote mobile advertising which was recently launched in Malaysia and India through partnerships with Maxis Communications Berhad and Idea Cellular Ltd., respectively.

These pioneer mobile advertising partnerships in the region will build on Yahoo!’s display and advertising partnerships with earlier partners AT&T, T-Mobile International and Vodafone UK.

“We also want to focus on mobile advertising which we expect to be anywhere to $15 billion. The partnership with Maxis Communications in Malaysia and Idea in India will kick off the process. We have done mobile advertising earlier in the US and Europe,” Ko said.

Mobile advertising allows advertisers to deliver highly targeted messages to consumers through their mobile devices, and provides the opportunity to adopt innovative marketing campaigns through mobile graphical advertising.

Mobile advertising is also expected to leverage Yahoo!’s open platform that will make it easier for publishers and developers to promote their products and services.

“There are a lot of those who want to showcase their products but it is too hard to cut across all the operating systems and the different handsets. As a global company, we had to do this. We are not creating new operating systems. We are not adding more complexity to space,” Ko explained.

“Mobile advertising is something that we expect to see more in the Philippines when we start partnerships to do advertising,” he added.

Going local

With the three major mobile phone companies as partners of Yahoo!, Ko said the business opportunities spell no boundaries.

The global Internet company also launched localized versions of Yahoo! Go 3.0 for India, Australia and Southeast Asia, including a local language version for Indonesia and an English version of Yahoo! oneSearch with voice that recognizes regional accents.

Ko said similar services in Filipino may also be possible, among other mobile Internet services to cater to the unique Filipino market.

“This is not the final step to localizing Yahoo! in the Philippines because like everything else, we have to continuously work on the product. This is a good step in the right direction. It shows the importance of the Philippines and there will be more news in the future,” he added.

But since majority of Filipinos use low-end mobile phones without mobile Internet browsing capability, the more popular search mode is through text message with the use of key words. To this setback, Yahoo! Mobile might opt for a similar service.

“We are drafting an SMS-type of search in certain markets like India but it is not yet in the Philippines. We are always thinking about different products in different markets. A lot of times, it is only a question of when,” Ko said.

“We talk to the operators on a lot of products all the time. It is a big menu. Each one moves at its own space. We now have a mind share with the operators. We realize that we need to speed things up to provide mobile Internet access,” he added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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