Yahoo, Nokia to unveil 'Project Nike' deal

Sources say the Finnish mobile giant will build Yahoo e-mail, search, and other applications and services into a range of its devices.

This week, Yahoo sent out an invite for a press conference in New York on Monday with a mysterioso tone:

It read, vaguely:

"Please join Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz for an exciting announcement about providing global consumers with rich online and mobile experiences, and bringing forward a new era in keeping consumers connected."

That's all it took to get BoomTown on the horn to find out what that meant.

And, according to sources, that will be a deal with Finland-based mobile phone giant Nokia to build Yahoo e-mail, search, and other applications and services into a range of its devices.

Greek goddess Nike
Theoi.com

While the pair had once discussed Nokia making a Yahoo-centric phone, sources said that is unlikely to be part of this deal.

Such a partnership--code-named "Project Nike" after the Greek goddess of victory and not the sneaker--has been batted around for many years between the companies without result, even as Google and Apple have grabbed the spotlight and business in the exploding smartphone market.

Yahoo has had a range of mobile initiatives and has had many, mostly failed, partnerships with carriers and telecom makers.

But without its own phone or mobile operating system, such as Google's Android, the Internet giant is essentially nowhere in what has become the most important digital sector today.

Nokia, which makes more mobile devices--mostly "feature" phones, not smartphones--than any other company, has also struggled to keep up the lightning-fast pace of innovation and has been looking for ways to compete as the landscape shifts dramatically.

That's why the long-festering deal was placed again on the fast track, especially by Bartz, who has put a lot of emphasis of late on showing Yahoo to be more relevant and cutting-edge.

Thus, the Nokia deal is likely to be a splashy centerpiece of next week's investor day on Wednesday in Silicon Valley, which will feature Bartz and her senior management, including Americas EVP Hilary Schneider.

Schneider has played a lead role in the Nokia deal, which sources said closed two to three weeks ago.

Bartz will also be appearing at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York next week, a speaker addition that will be announced soon, where she is likely to discuss the deal.

Yahoo has been on a bit of a deal tear of late, purchasing social publishing start-up Associated Content for $90 million earlier this week.

And while the Nokia deal will likely garner a lot of attention when announced, execution will as usual be key in determining if this works, especially since both companies are now in a much weaker position.

"Recently, Nokia has offered devices that people don't want and Yahoo has launched mobile services that they don't want," said one person familiar with the talks. "Perhaps in working together, they will find a way to finally create some value."

Yahoo declined to comment, and Nokia has not responded to an e-mail I sent Thursday.

 

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