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Yahoo! ties up TiVo, eyes cellphone

Yodelling ringtones

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Web portal Yahoo! is to launch an own-brand cellphone, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal. Nokia will provide the phone, and Yahoo!'s DSL broadband partner SBC (soon to be AT&T) will provide the service through its Cingular network.

It marks a change of strategy for Yahoo!, which has so far been happy to work on a carrier-by-carrier basis, and build out its public facing mobile services without feeling the need to put its branding on the handset itself. In spring 2004, Google was reported to be planning a Google-branded phone, but the project never came to fruition.

The Yahoo! phone - hopefully without a yodeling ringtone - will cost around $200 to $300 and feature a 1.3 megapixel camera and removable storage, which suggests it's a Series 60 smartphone.

The report doesn't suggest that the phone will be the springboard for Yahoo! to launch its own-brand cellular service, and become a mobile virtual network operator MVNO. Cingular has traditionally been hostile to the idea of being a network wholesaler, but given the success of Sprint's MVNO drive, appears to be thawing to the idea. Sprint allows Virgin and Disney, amongst others, to piggyback off its network. Last week Sprint also announced fixed/wireless bundles with Comcast and Time Warner Cable to sell its network.

More concretely, Yahoo! today also announced a two-way partnership with TiVo. Yahoo! will make some of its services - starting with weather, traffic and photo sharing - available to TiVo subscribers, who will also be able to program their recorders through Yahoo!'s TV portal. TiVo is currently selling its PVRs at a heavy discount - $49 after rebates. ®

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