During a keynote at the CTIA Wireless show here, Yahoo Chief Operating Officer Dan Rosensweig said that the mobile industry has reached a "tipping point" where devices could meet user demand for mobile online services such as those from Yahoo.
"Yahoo has put [mobile] as one of its most important priorities," Rosensweig said. "We think now the industry is finally ready to take on the demand of users."
About 79 percent of Yahoos U.S. users also own a mobile phone, Rosensweig said, and they increasingly are using phones that support data. Among all U.S. Internet users, about 30 percent have access to a data-enabled mobile phone, he said.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo joins archrival Google Inc. in the mobile search space, though the two companies so far have taken different approaches. Google earlier this month launched a beta of Google SMS, which lets users conduct targeted searches—such as for local businesses, product prices and dictionary definitions—through text messages.
But Google also offers access to its Web search and Froogle shopping search through mobile browsers using the WAP, iMode and other formats, and its search service is part of Sprint PCS wireless Web services.
Yahoo has focused on bringing a slimmed-down version of its search interface to mobile browsers. Yahoo Search for Mobile requires color and data-enabled wireless phones with either an HTML or WAP 2.0 browser installed. While local and image search works on either type of mobile browser, Web search only supports HTML browsers, said Thad White, Yahoos director of mobile products.
By using a mobile browser, Yahoo can present full color and graphics with search results, so users conducting local searches can view maps and driving directions once they choose a specific business. Image search returns photos and graphics that, in many cases, could be saved on the phone, White said.
"What we are trying to do is give the best user experience," White said. "What you get with WAP versions is a richer experience and more options and features."
Yahoo Search for Mobile is available in the United States. Mobile carriers Cingular Wireless, Sprint PCS and AT&T Wireless have added it into their data services. Other users can access it by typing search.yahoo.com or mobile.yahoo.com into their mobile browsers.
Yahoo also has linked its mobile search with desktop search history. By entering their Yahoo user ID, mobile users can enter a broad search term for a local business, such as "pizza," and then view a list of their recently searched locations. After selecting one, they receive results within that location.
From the local results, users can then click a link to a business phone number to automatically place a call.
For Web search, Yahoo has created seven shortcuts to conduct common searches for stock quotes, sports scores, weather and movies, and expects to create more, White said.
Yahoo Search for Mobile does not include the paid–listing ads from Yahoos Overture Services that appear on the Internet search sites. White said Yahoo first is focusing on reaching more mobile users but did not rule out extending ads in the future.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include more complete information on Googles mobile offerings.