Getting Yahoo! Inc.'s content in front of more eyeballs,
including television viewers, is the goal of a new relationship with Online Anywhere.
Using Web-delivery technology from the software developer,
Yahoo! will be able to automatically reformat and optimize its Internet content for
viewing on several types of non-personal-computer devices, including televisions that
access the Internet via network appliances or set-top boxes, as well as personal digital
assistants and palm-sized computers.
Ellen Siminoff, Yahoo!'s vice president of business
development and strategic planning, said the deal follows the Internet portal's
"Yahoo! Everywhere" strategy of broadening the reach of its growing content
portfolio, and it comes on the heels of development efforts with 3Com Corp.'s Palm
Computing unit and Paging Network Inc. for optimizing Yahoo! content delivered to their
The ability to "transcode" text from one format
to another -- avoiding the need to store different Web pages for different platforms -- is
a key to delivering content to myriad types of devices. That consideration grows as more
consumer hardware, from cellular phones to home TVs, becomes Web-enabled.
For example, text, tables and other Web-site matter
originally created for viewing on a PC monitor may be cut off at the edges or otherwise
look odd on a television unless it is reformatted, Siminoff said.
Online Anywhere's reformatting and display system, based on
its proprietary "FlashMap" technology, converts PC-oriented text content on the
fly to the format that is most readable for the devices that Yahoo! wants to support.
Siminoff said success with Online Anywhere could translate
into further initiatives for boosting Yahoo!'s reach, although no deals with
broadband-access providers have been reached yet.
"We don't care how someone gets to us, as long as they
get to us," Siminoff said. "To the extent that people are getting broadband
access through their TV, this makes it look better."
She added that anything involving content from Internet
video and audio aggregator Broadcast.com Inc., which Yahoo! plans to acquire for about
$5.6 billion, would not be discussed until after that deal closes.
For Online Anywhere, the Yahoo! deal is its first major
customer announcement, according to CEO Mohan Vishwanath, although the company is in talks
with a number of other content providers that want to deliver their goods to a variety of
The company is a start-up funded by Motorola Inc.'s
Motorola Ventures unit, with other investors expected to come on board in its second
financing round later this year.
Online Anywhere's strategy focuses on content providers,
although Vishwanath sees other potential customers among service providers, such as MSOs
and telcos, that offer Internet access or other enhanced services through non-PC devices,
such as televisions or network appliances.
"Our focus, to a large extent, is on enabling the
end-user to get to all of the content that they're used to on the desktop,"
Vishwanath said. "We can do that primarily by enabling the content providers that are
already in front of the users."
Network Computer Inc. also transcodes online content
through the client and server software that it sells to network operators, such as cable
companies and telcos.
Pete Larsen, NCI's product-line manager for client
software, said the Online Anywhere deal with Yahoo! was a positive sign for his company
because it reflected the growing demand that operators are facing for content that is
readable through a variety of devices, such as set-tops, thin-client network computers and
wireless phones or handheld computers.
"The network operators are sort of the ones who hold
the keys into the home," Larsen said. "It makes a lot more sense for us to do
one deal with, say, a U S West that will work with a pretty wide variety of content
Larsen said there were potential issues about how Online
Anywhere's transcoded content would interact with NCI client software used by companies
such as U S West, which employs NCI's client and server platform for its planned
Internet-over-TV product, scheduled for rollout later this year.
However, he added, NCI and Online Anywhere had scheduled
discussions last week about potential cooperation or a possible partnership that could
address those issues, as well as broader business strategies.