The announced Microsoft bid for Yahoo! means a lot of different things for lots of people. An emboldened competitor for Google. A stronger ad network for advertisers. Heightened acquisition hopes for AOL. Better benefits for Yahoo! employees. (Microsoft has the best benefits I’ve seen in the industry.)
But what does it mean for every day consumers? The biggest impact is likely to be in the mobile space. Microsoft’s ownership of the Windows Mobile OS and Yahoo’s large audience and mobile applications could revolutionize the industry.
As revolutionary as the iPhone is, it’s not a true network device. Apple did a terrific job integrating four devices – phone, Internet tablet, media player and camera – into one.
Even as our lives get more and more digitally connected, the cell phone remains a remote island of information. Someone needs to build a device that integrates the Internet seamlessly.
Some of the things I’d like to see:
- A network address book. You no longer have to use the 10-key keypad or a sync cable to keep your address book up-to-date. In fact, you don’t have to update it all – as your contacts move, those changes are automatically reflected. The address book would incorporate network presence so that you don’t call people when they’re in the middle of something.
- A network calendar.
- Integrated photo applications. I’ve been looking for a way to view pictures from my friends on flickr through my mobile phone or iPod Touch. The best efforts have been clunky. When I take pictures, they’re seamlessly integrated with my flickr account, without the hacks that are currently required. (Sprint has done a nice implementation of this kind of integration with Picture Mail, but their Web application is awful and little used.) The pictures could also be used for picture Caller ID.
- Richer data push to the phone. It amazes me that we’re still stuck sending 160 character text messages to each other. A network-integrated phone would allow for a better experience. Want to invite someone to dinner? Send them a message which appears complete with photo, address, review and link to driving directions.
- Web access to text messages and integration with IM. When you’re at your desk, text messages come in on your IM client. Leave and they get routed to your cell phone. All of your texts are available in your mail app. The carriers are an obstacle to making this happen (text messaging is highly lucrative), but a combined Microsoft-Yahoo might be able to pull it off.
- Network control of your phone. Phone stolen? No problem, send a bullet to erase all of the data. Forgot where you left your phone? See a map of where it is.
- Local search integration. Found a business that you like? Add it your network address book for quick and easy access. Click to rate right from your cell phone.
- Location-aware presence. The option to publish location to other networks, including IM networks. More on that later.
Some variations of a few of these features, like the network address book and calendar, exist in enterprise-focused devices. Yahoo! Go is an excellent consumer application that includes features such as a flickr viewer, but without integration into the OS isn’t as great as it should be.
Microsoft’s ownership of the phone OS, deep integration of Yahoo! Go and their combined consumer audiences could be combined to create a phone that out Apples Apple.
ObDisclaimer: These are my personal views and do not reflect the views of my employer.