Yahoo to revamp mail, search

It also plans to develop an application for the iPad

Yahoo will sharpen its search engine by providing richer results for news and entertainment-related queries, as well as revamp its webmail service by making it faster and more connected to Twitter and Facebook.

Search results for topics like movies, music and news will be more "visually compelling" and contain richer information via increased use of elements like images, videos, articles and social-media-site postings, Yahoo said Thursday.

Meanwhile, Yahoo Mail is getting an upgrade intended to make its user interface "cleaner" and "sleeker," and to speed up the overall performance of the service. The ability to access and update Facebook and Twitter accounts from Yahoo Mail is also coming. The Yahoo Mail enhancements will be available as a beta, or test, version in the coming weeks, according to Yahoo. The search improvements are due sometime in the fall.

Yahoo also plans to develop a new application for the Apple iPad and for other tablet devices, designed for the delivery of news, weather, traffic and other information.

Yahoo made the announcements at an event it called Product Runway, held at its Sunnyvale, California, headquarters and headlined by high-ranking officials, including Chief Product Officer Blake Irving.

In the midst of transitioning its back-end search functions to Microsoft, Yahoo is also focused on remaining relevant in the search market by differentiating its offerings through user interface improvements and innovation. As with search, Yahoo faces strong competition from Google in the webmail market.

Given the competitive landscape, Thursday's announcements didn't seem particularly impressive to Jeremiah Owyang, an Altimeter Group analyst.

Yahoo's efforts appear focused on upgrades and integration with other services, and "it's not clear where they are investing in innovation products that haven't been done before," he said via e-mail.

By comparison, Google often makes bold bets on new products, some of which fail. "While risky, this is how to get ahead of the innovation curve. Yahoo's announcement places them in a 'fast follower' position -- but not as an industry leader," Owyang said.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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