Things were looking promising for Yahoo's mobile repositioning. By April 1, Yahoo had a redesigned mobile Web site, a richer but similarly-featured iPhone app, and plans for a Java phone edition, of which we got to take a sneak peek. However, that final Java app is no longer going to materialize, at least not in its originally planned form. Yahoo recently released a message to beta testers explaining that the company "has decided to cease development of the Yahoo Mobile smartphone app effective Wednesday, May 20th. So you will not be provided access to the beta program for this product."
Yahoo cites streamlined services as the impetus for discontinuing development on the mobile app, but what does that really mean? Crushing business pressures that have slashed Yahoo's budget for mobile application development? An investment in developing for Palm's new Web OS instead? Or perhaps the realization that the planned Yahoo Mobile Java app needed a more compelling design than the widget dashboard motif under production? It could be all of the above.
Yahoo Mobile on the Web and iPhone groups Yahoo's search, RSS, and social-networking products together in a unified app, after each had been released as a separate element months before. It's a successful design, where the features are organized by screens in the iPhone app and by subsections on the scrolling Web app.
In contrast, the Java setup imagined the application as a gathering place for widgets: weather, e-mail, social networks, news feeds, and a browser shortcut. Were Yahoo to concentrate instead on recreating its iPhone offering for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Nokia, and Web OS, the application would likely stick its cleats in deeper, and inspire greater applause than had Yahoo kept to its Java widget plan.
It is a loss for those in the beta testing community who had been looking forward to the Java app release, and it's not the first time that Yahoo has yanked a consumer product well after courting the press. (The visually engaging Yahoo Messenger for Vista is just one example, and one we'd like to see resurrected for the Windows 7 platform.) As Yahoo assures us its mobile team will continue developing for multiple mobile platforms, it's likely this won't be the last we hear of a native Yahoo Mobile application for a platform other than the iPhone--especially with platform-specific app stores on the rise.