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Yahoo! murders unborn Java smartphone app

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Just three months ago, Yahoo! unveiled a Java-based uber-app for myriad smartphones not called the iPhone. But now, even before it exits beta testing, the company is killing the poor thing.

As reported/mangled by TechCrunch, Yahoo! recently sent a letter to those interested in beta testing its Yahoo! Mobile smartphone app, saying it would cease development before the end of this week.

In announcing the app at Mobile World Congress in February, Yahoo! unveiled two other thingamabobs under the new Yahoo! Mobile name: an app solely for the iPhone (available from the Apple App Store) and a web service available via mobile browsers (available at new.m.yahoo.com). All three tools were meant to provide portal-like access to countless Yahoo! services as well as services from various third-parties, and Yahoo! marketers preferred to think of them as a single product.

"At Mobile World Congress, we launched one product, Yahoo! Mobile, which is something we call a starting point for the mobile internet," says spokesman Adam Taggart. "It's this all-in-one service where you bring all the services and all the content you care about into one place. You could have Yahoo! Mail along with GMail. You could have Yahoo! Sports along with ESPN. You could have Facebook. You could have whatever you want in one aggregated location."

But this single product was really three separate products: an iPhone app, a browser-based web service, and a J2ME app built to run on "hundreds" of Java-enabled smartphones, including BlackBerrys, Windows Mobile devices, and various handhelds from Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Motorola.

And now Yahoo! is killing the Java app. According to Taggart, beta testing showed that the company was better off providing its all-in-one service to non-iPhone smartphones via the browser. "Beta testing is all about getting feedback from people," he tells us. "We realized how good the browser experience was."

But the company will continue to develop other, smaller apps for non-iPhone smartphones. "Given our finite resources, we can provide more value to smartphone users by focusing our app development efforts on really great vertical app experiences." Taggart points to the company's OneSearch search app as an example.

Still confused? Don't feel bad. When TechCrunch broke this story, even TechCrunch was confused. And perhaps Yahoo! sorting out its own confusion. In late February, just after Mobile World Congress, the executive vice president in charge of Yahoo!'s mobile operation failed to survive the reorg brought down by new CEO Carol Bartz. ®

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