Yahoo’s first Mobile Developer Conference

Impressions from Yahoo’s first Mobile Developer Conference By Fred Welterlin and Grant Damron

Yahoo held their first Mobile Developer Conference in San Francisco last week. Overall we are most impressed and excited that Yahoo appears to be getting back to focusing on innovation (not content curation), as shown from some of the product feature launches. The day began with Marisa Meyer and Simon Khalaf clearly pinning Yahoo’s future as a “mobile first” oriented company. Note that in the context of Yahoo’s strategy, “mobile first” really means “apps first.” Khalaf in particular illustrated the current app usage revolution by cross examining analytics that suggest a huge exponential growth of app usage well into the future. Interestingly, while a handful of social apps (Facebook, etc) represent where consumers spend the majority of their time, Yahoo asserts that the largest growth areas (the long tail) will be elsewhere- specifically, shopping applications. Yahoo wants to position itself as a leader by providing the technologies that allow start-ups and existing businesses to grow mobile app based commerce and perhaps even leverage some of Yahoo’s content offerings.

Central to the “app first” strategy is Flurry (acquired by Yahoo this year), the premier mobile analytics tool. The rapid integration of the firm into Yahoo’s larger ecosystem has made it possible for a collection of new (and “free”) products to be developed and announced at the conference, named the Yahoo Mobile App Development Suite (featuring 6 tools that mostly support analytics and monetization). Of the new offerings, 2 analytics oriented tools caught our eyes:

  • “Explore” allows users to run custom queries on data in real time, generating high quality graphs within seconds. Think along the lines of Tableau, but free. A quick overview of the service’s architecture presented in the afternoon implied some fascinating innovations and, not surprisingly, that it is running Hadoop under the hood.

  • “Pulse” has a little ways to go- but has potential. It allow devs to send analytics data from the app to other services (reducing overhead - most noticeable in terms of network and battery usage). Only one service is currently integrated, limiting its immediate utility. It will be interesting to see what other analytics services get on board, down the road.

As for monetization, Yahoo has been a major player in targeted advertising for some time now, so it’s no surprise that their tools are designed to funnel data through their ad platform as much as possible (this is what makes it possible for Flurry to be free!). While not exactly new, the most significant ad-specific product unveiled was the Native Ads Service. In an attempt to move beyond the ecosystem of boring ad banners, the service provides applications with all the assets for a quality ad (copy, image, etc) while allowing the apps themselves to handle placement and presentation. This encourages more consistent integration with the host app’s content. Yahoo presented numbers that support an increase in conversion rates, at least within Yahoo’s own apps.

Our Take Away Clearly, Yahoo is looking to empower native app start-ups with “free” tools that provide them with measurement so that product refinement cycles can occur quickly, based on direct feedback. Coupled with seamless integration of advertising (for example, we noted beautifully integrated BrightRoll video ads within some app demos), and the potential to leverage Yahoo’s enormous reach with users and content (news, sports, etc), business developers for mobile applications have a nice set of tools to help them find an edge in the increasingly crowded yet still “wide open” mobile ecosystem. Show me the money!