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Yahoo! Go? Yahoo! No!

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Review About a year ago, a man I'd never met before showed me pictures of a dramatic episode in his life. These showed him driving his wife to the hospital, where she was about to give birth. There were dozens and dozens of these pictures, and in each one his wife was looking progressively more grumpy.

As you'd be, too, if your waters had broken, and your husband had only one hand on the steering wheel.

He was as proud of this act of obsessive recording as I, a total stranger, was embarrassed.

The man then enthused at length about "emerging technology". Shortly afterwards, I was not surprised to hear that he'd decided to start a new life in California.

The fellow was Christian Lindholm, and the irony of this review is that while he was at Nokia, Christian helped make a hostile technology usable for ordinary people. Mobile phones are indisputably the one technology success story over the last decade, and Lindholm's team developed the Navi-key user interface, which I believe has never been surpassed in terms of grace and simplicity.

Now's he's at Yahoo!, Christian is helping make technology hostile again - something he'd already begun to do with at Nokia, with his work on the Series 60 user interface for Symbian smartphones.

I've been testing Yahoo!'s Go! software for mobile phones for six weeks now, and it's the most presumptuous and irritating piece of software I've ever used. I value some of Yahoo!'s services, and I'm more forgiving of my phone's idiosyncrasies than most people. But Yahoo! Go is a poster child for what happens when scientists or technologists lose sight of the needs of ordinary people. Judged purely on some narrow technical parameters, it's amazing. Judged by how well it fits into a corporate Yahoo! marketing strategy, it fills all the tick boxes. Someone's even created a Yahoo! theme and bundled it in the package.

The problem is much deeper than that, and as a result, everything that made Navi-key a success has been forgotten, or thrown away, in Y!Go.

I don't mean to pick on Christian personally, he's a super fellow. The Y!Go project was underway before he joined Yahoo! as its VP of Global Mobile Products in September. It's much more about what misinforms corporate technology decisions.

There's something about people who, once they get smitten by the idea of a "Hive Mind", often lose their own (usually it's temporary, but sometimes it's not). When the basic philosophical assumptions are misguided, then the plumbing is wrong, and that takes a lot of fixing.

It's this, we'll discover, that's at the core of the problem.

What's wrong with Yahoo! Go?

Christian himself points out in his blog announcing that Y!Go fulfills several criteria: it's a suite that requires just one sign-in; it integrates deeply into the phone, and it provides high-fidelity synchronization.

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