In Microsoft’s conference call last week discussing its offer to purchase Yahoo for $44.6 billion, mobile was cited as a key asset. Mobile assets combined make a significant footprint in the mobile ecosystem. That’s because currently, “there really is no one-thousand pound gorilla in mobile,” said Boris Fridman, CEO of Crisp Wireless, in the context of the mobile presence both companies can merge into.
Here’s the rundown on Microsoft’s mobile universe: Windows Mobile, an operating system with a full suite of productivity software such as Outlook, Word, and Excel, sits at the core of Microsoft’s mobile footprint. MSN began advertising on its mobile portal in December, and in the U.K. in January. Its Live Mobile offering, which Sprint uses in a deal with Microsoft, runs pay-per-call ads.
A string of acquisitions including ScreenTonic, Tellme, and MotionBridge bolstered existing properties as well as filled out lacking areas. In a surprising move, Microsoft incubated and then spun off ZenZui, a graphical user interface browsing package, now called Zumobi.
Yahoo has spent time building out its own mobile offering with a multi-platform presence. The search engine began offering keyword-based mobile search ads in fall of 2006. Then it brought out OneSearch the following spring. It also developed a content-driven portal Yahoo Go, which just released a 2.0 version. Sources say Yahoo Go has been perceived as a failure inside the company. Yahoo also brings to the table several relationships with international carriers. In January it signed a deal with T-Mobile U.K., which adds to its existing relationship with competing carrier Vodafone. A separate deal includes relationships with Six carriers in Asia.
If Microsoft and Yahoo’s combined mobile presence becomes the 1,000 pound gorilla in mobile, will it be a game-changer? Probably not, according to some industry sources. It will offer a great deal of inventory in multiple formats and in one place. Microsoft can streamline media buying through its global sales force and ad-buying dashboard through its Digital Advertising Solutions Group. It may become the best way to do multi-channel buys, and Microsoft can build mobile network beyond its core sites. It won’t take over all of mobile, and pure-play solutions providers in the space may still be the best options for content owners, media buyers, and advertisers looking to build a presence.
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