Yahoo mobile chief quits while Microsoft seeks new talks

by Caroline Gabriel, ReThink Wireless

Just a week after Yahoo significantly revamped its mobile offering, reducing its emphasis on search and rolling up many services under the new Yahoo! Mobile brand, the head of its mobile activities, Marco Boerries, has resigned.

Boerries is executive VP of Yahoo’s Connected Life division, and the face of its mobile efforts, but is leaving, according to an internal email obtained by The Wall Street Journal’s BoomTown blog. This could be part of a major management restructuring, expected as early as next week from new CEO Carol Bartz. It is unlikely, despite some speculation among market watchers, that Boerries’ departure marks a pullback from mobile activities by Bartz, who has been open, in her brief tenure so far, about her belief in extending Yahoo’s brand and services to new platforms.

The new Yahoo! Mobile is designed to support a higher level of personalization by operators and by end users, using the all-important widgets interface in which the software house has been a strong player. The product amalgamates several applications, including OneSearch, OnePlace and OneConnect, into a single offering, available for the iPhone and other smartphones. Users will be able to use a single interface to access data via widgets, monitor email and social networks, and conduct searches. The product also features voice-activated search and an integrated Opera Mini browser. Full release should be in May. This addresses the chief user criticism of Yahoo, that it offers a wide variety of applications but with hardly any crossover or integration of data, contacts and so on.

Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is keen to hold talks with Bartz about an internet search deal despite the collapse of the larger firm’s acquisition attempts last year, which led to the departure of former Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang. Ballmer said he knows investors want to see better results from Microsoft’s search and advertising properties.”I don’t want to wind up being known as the Jerry Yang of this market in a different way,” he said in a presentation in New York this week. Despite investor nerves about the $9bn Microsoft is expected to spend on R&D this year, he promised this sum would be maintained, and is essential to “long term survivability”.

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