As much anticipated keynotes for CES, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang had a lot of pressure to deliver a cool new technology CES regulars have come to expect. While attendees lined up four hours early for Gates’ speech and only trickled in 30 minutes before Yang’s, Yahoo was the clear-cut winner in terms of delivering on a wow factor. It’s a small step for Yahoo, which has the likes of Google to compete with. Rumors that Microsoft itself may be plotting to acquire the Internet company still quietly circulate as well.
Gates’ demo, concluding his speech, was essentially a GPS handheld-looking device – not a cell phone or gaming console by any means – more so a large block. The apparatus will be used to identify people and places and bring up background information, menus, directions, histories, advertisements, etc. To illustrate, Gates used a photo of himself to access pictures and clips from his last eight CES keynotes.
Although Microsoft’s technology was cool as usual, Yahoo’s Yang outdid Gates by debuting a concept demo for a mailbox homepage that took the recognition capabilities of Microsoft’s block to the Web. Yang plans to morph Yahoo mail into a universal mailbox that includes emails, voicemails, instant messages and messages from any third-party network a user is in, such as LinkedIn or MySpace. The mail service will allow users to simplify their mailboxes by creating a hierarchy of importance amongst the user’s contacts, as well as show updates that any contact may provide to Yahoo.
Yang, along with Marco Boerries, Yahoo’s senior vice president of Connected Life, also demonstrated other third-party applications that could be built into Yahoo’s navigation bar including evite.com, MTV or Flickr – sites users may frequent or ones their friends and connections recommend they use. Those in the Flickr community can create a tag map – a collective showcase of what the world finds interesting, as Yang described it. From the Yahoo mail page, subscribers can see a location a Flickr user has recommended, along with pictures and more information that they choose to upload.
In an equally intriguing example, Yang used the interface to go from an email regarding dinner plans out to profiles of those emailed, their dinner preferences and availability. Through evite, the party planner can narrow down a restaurant from a list of recommended ones that match the participants’ tastes, view the menu, get directions and send an invite to everyone’s mobile, PC or TV – all with a few drags of the mouse.
Granted, it’s a lot more impressive to be shown rather than told, but essentially, any information users choose to share with Yahoo can be turned into a personalized, potentially very useful collaborative experience. The site really combines the coolest aspects of social networking and content sharing and has the potential to make Google take notice. Naturally, neither Gates nor Yang would commit to a launch date, but it will be interesting to follow the companies as the technologies come to fruition.