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January 7, 2008 at 9:12 AM

Yahoo! joins mobile platform game

Yahoo! announced today at CES that it has developed the Mobile Developer Platform, which will provide tools for developers to write widget-like applications for mobile phones.

In doing so, Yahoo is formulating its own strategy to go up against Google, Microsoft, Symbian and others that are appealing to the developer world to become king on the mobile phone.

A handful of applications — to be called Yahoo! Mobile Widgets — are launching this week, including ones built by eBay, MySpace and MTV. The widgets will be available at Yahoo’s new mobile home page, called Yahoo! Go 3.0 and Yahoo’s oneSearch. Consumers will be able to add and delete mobile widgets anytime to keep up with their latest interests.

While you this is likely Yahoo!’s response to Google’s Android operating system, which it launched last year, I think Yahoo! is taking a slightly different approach.

It’s more similar to what Seattle-based Zumobi, formerly called Zenzui, is doing. Zumobi launched last month on a variety of Windows Mobile phones. It is also taking a widget approach.

A widget approach allows developers to build their applications only once. Currently, a developer must build and then tweak its application for every operating system and phone. With a middleware platform — which is what Zumobi has, or what I think Yahoo! is proposing — it would be up to platform provider to make sure a widget works on every operating system and every phone.

Yahoo’s entrance into this space may threaten Zumobi, a venture-backed startup, but it also gives the latter a lot of validation. It will probably come down to which company can get on the most phones the fastest and which gets the most exposure.

Today, Zumobi is strictly on Windows Mobile phones, but expects that to change soon. Yahoo! says its widgets will run on devices that support the new Yahoo! Go 3.0 client, and in the next few months, the company says, the number of compatible devices is expected to expand substantially.

For more information on Yahoo! widgets, developers should go here.

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