Quick, Robin! The Bat-phone! I’ve got to get on the Internet!
With plans to put the cool gadgets in the comic strip world into the hands of mere mortals, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) announced deals this week to take Internet surfing and shopping beyond the PC.
Sprint PCS (NYSE: PCS) will put Yahoo!’s Internet search engine and variety of online services on its digital telephones by the end of the year. In a separate deal, Yahoo! bought Online Anywhere, a technology company that enables delivery of Internet content to other machines, such as TVs, palmtop digital assistants and pagers.
The strategy is simple, according to Ellen Siminoff, Yahoo! vice president of business development and strategic planning. “Our goal is to extend the capabilities of wireless technology and the Internet, making information available anytime, anywhere,” she said.
Sprinting Toward the Internet
Users of Sprint PCS’s national wireless telephone service will get access to Yahoo!’s mail, calendar, news, weather and horoscope data, delivered to the screens on their digital phones.
In addition, the Yahoo! phone service will allow Sprint customers to check their Sprint accounts, buy new phones and upgrade or change their Sprint PCS service. Sprint PCS serves more than 4,000 cities and communities, with licenses to serve nearly 270 million people in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Sprint PCS stock climbed more than $2 to $48.50 in the first few hours of trading Friday. A boost in rating from Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette from “buy” to “top pick” may have helped the stock upward. It was not clear at press time whether DLJ raised its rating as a result of the Yahoo! deal.
For Sprint, the deal will enable the cellular telephone service to take its competition with messaging service SkyTel one step further. SkyTel, which operates strictly with pagers rather than two-way phones, has been offering messaging services and e-mail forwarding from Internet to pager for more than a year. Sprint’s closest cellular phone competitors – regional Bell operating companies such as Bell Atlantic and Ameritech – do not offer Internet access via their phones, though some allow Internet users to send messages to cell phones. capabilities for 95 percent of all airline seats sold, more than 42,000 hotels and more than 50 car rental companies.
The $80 million Online Anywhere stock deal, which the companies are calling a “pooling of interests” rather than a takeover by Yahoo!, will help the nearly ubiquitous Internet search company further push its Yahoo! Everywhere strategy spearheaded by the Sprint PCS deal. Essentially, Yahoo! sees phones as just the beginning.
The deal follows an April agreement between Yahoo! and Online Anywhere to give Yahoo! access to “Author Once, View Anywhere,” a service that automatically reformats and delivers HTML Web pages to non-PC devices. By reformating the pages, the Online Anywhere technology eliminates the need for individual companies to create multiple versions of the pages on their Web sites.
Online Anywhere, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is also developing Internet access services for hotel rooms and automobiles. The privately held company is partially funded by minority stake investors Motorola Ventures and Draper-Richards, a San Francisco-based venture fund.