Yahoo launches OneConnect

Company turns up the heat in the mobile Web market with with launch of tool that aggregates messaging and social-networking information for cell phone users.

BARCELONA, Spain--Yahoo has upped the ante in its campaign to rule the mobile Web.

On Tuesday, the company announced at the GSMA Mobile World Congress here OneConnect, a new tool that allows mobile phone users to aggregate their social-networking updates and messaging in one spot on their phones. The service integrates directly with a phone user's address book and allows people to share status updates and messages from a variety of messaging and social-networking platforms. This means it can provide status updates from Facebook or MySpace.com as well as provide access to e-mail and archived instant-messaging chats.

Yahoo demonstrated OneConnect at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Marguerite Reardon/CNET Networks

Using GPS tracking, cell tower triangulation and/or near field communications like Bluetooth to get a fix on the cell phone user's exact location, the service can be set up to let people know if their friends are in the same area.

The service sounds similar to one that is offered by a small company called Loopt. This service also allows people to track their friends using GPS and last year the company announced it had integrated the service with cell phone users' address books. But the Loopt service is only available through two carriers in the U.S., Boost and Sprint Nextel. It also costs an additional $3 a month and can only be used on certain handsets.

By contrast OneConnect should be able to run on most mass-market phones that have a browser, said Marco Boerries, executive vice president of Connected Life at Yahoo. Boerries also said the company is working on versions of the service for Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's BlackBerry. The service can also be accessed from any Internet browser through Yahoo Go 3.0.

Yahoo's OneConnect is yet another example of how the company is pouring resources and efforts into building up its mobile capabilities. Within the past year the company has gotten more aggressive about rolling out new mobile services and striking deals with carriers. Today, Yahoo has partnerships with 29 operators, who combined have more than 600 million subscribers, according to its press release.

Yahoo's hope is that it will become the default access point for mobile phone users accessing the Web. OneConnect fits nicely with Yahoo OneSearch, which aggregates news, weather, financial data, photos, and Web links based on search queries, Boerries said during a demonstration of the service at Mobile World Congress.

But Yahoo isn't the only company going after this market. Rival Google is also making a play in mobile. But many experts say that even though Google dominates on the desktop, the company seems to be lagging Yahoo in capabilities on mobile devices.

The two companies have taken different strategies in addressing the mobile market. Google is building its own mobile phone software in an effort to integrate its services into devices. By contrast, Yahoo is attempting to address the current phone market and is even integrating its competitors' services on this new OneConnect platform. For example, Google Talk and MSN Messenger will be aggregated as a part of the OneConnect product.

The competition between the two companies is heating up. Also on Tuesday at Mobile World Congress, Yahoo announced that its OneSearch service will be the exclusive search tool for T-Mobile's European customers starting in March. Google said Tuesday that its search tool will be embedded on the four phones Nokia introduced on Monday. Google search has previously been available on Nokia Internet tablets, and last year Nokia announced that the N95 8GB supported YouTube, the video-sharing platform owned by Google.

 

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