With more than 600,000 apps just for Android phones and the iPhone, the needle and haystack analogy is apt when it comes to finding a title you might like. To help solve that problem, Yahoo today released -- what else, a new app -- to make app discovery easier.
Dubbed AppSpot, the downloadable program gives users personalized new app suggestions each day for both the App Store and the Android Market. It also recommends related apps as well as pricing details, ratings and descriptions, among other features. Yahoo also released a similar app for PC users called App Search. The new mobile offering will hopefully prove useful to consumers overwhelmed by the sheer number of titles available and the lack of helpful guidance within app stores.
But the discovery app seems only to underscore how Yahoo has been relegated to the role of minor player in mobile by the likes of Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Yahoo is doing things around the edges, like rolling out new apps and mobile ad formats, and the Livestand digital newsstand for tablets. But without its own mobile platform or hardware, it doesn't really have the weapons to compete with its main corporate rivals.
Ok, Yahoo is essentially a content company, it can't do everything. The problem is those other companies have all gotten into the content business in some form or another, beyond their core competence. And they all have mobile operating systems, (or are rumored to be developing one, in Facebook's case), giving them an advantage over Yahoo in branching out into new mobile businesses.
Yahoo has released a number of apps leveraging its key properties like Finance and Mail, but Apple, Google and Microsoft each have their own app stores that help support their own mobile ecosystems. Yahoo simply hasn't made mobile as central to its overall strategy as the others, and won't be as well positioned to capitalize on the growth of mobile media and advertising as well as device use.
Software and hardware are just more tightly interwoven when it comes to the mobile sphere, which puts content-focused players like Yahoo at a disadvantage. Even Amazon seemed to realize that with its launch of the Kindle, it needed to develop its own e-reader to sell e-books, making money on both.
Amazon, Google and, most recently, Apple, have rolled out competing digital storage lockers geared to media consumption in a multi-device world. Where is Yahoo here? Even without its own hardware, it could offer consumers a cloud-based service to house their digital content. That also brings up online music, an area which Yahoo has all but exited -- but one that's well suited to mobile. Internet radio service Pandora, which yesterday raised $244 million in its IPO, now gets more than 40% of its site traffic from mobile channels, according to comScore.
If not music, finding a content or e-commerce play that ties well into mobile, whether local deals, video or sports content, looks like Yahoo's best hope for staying relevant in the space -- unless it's content to stay on the sidelines while its main competitors take control of the emerging medium.