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Yahoo’s Semel Keynotes, Bows Its Go Service

LAS VEGAS — Surrounded by the kind of star power he was accustomed to in his prior role as a studio mogul, Yahoo chief executive Terry Semel called on Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Cruise and even a videotaped Donald Trump to help unveil Yahoo Go, a new series of Web-based services that allow consumers to easily access information and entertainment stored on Yahoo from any connected device, including a computer, mobile phone, or TV.

Yahoo Go will come in three forms: Yahoo Go Mobile, designed to work with cellphones and other smart portable devices; Yahoo Go TV, for use with Internet-connected TVs; and Yahoo Go Desktop, for PCs and notebooks. Yahoo Go allows direct access to various applications, such as mail, address books and photos, using small applets called “widgets” rather than a browser. In addition, because Yahoo Go recognizes both the user and the device being used, it will dynamically scale content and the service’s interface so it is appropriate for the device and its screen. Semel emphasized that Yahoo Go was built on an open platform, so that companies and individuals could create applications. “Yahoo does not aspire to make gadgets; we’re here to partner with you,” he said to attendees, adding, “I think walled gardens are a thing of the past.”

During the keynote, Semel called on DeGeneres (and, unintentionally, Donald Trump) for comic relief. DeGeneres, who set up the presentation by providing a list of problems that Yahoo Go would address, drew laughs when she quipped that she accidentally wandered into the nearby porn convention, but thought she was in the right place “because there was a naked woman on a mechanical bull yelling, “Yahoo!’” She also noted that the gadgets there were very different, “since the CE industry’s concern is making things smaller.” Cruise’s appearance, which was accompanied by a trailer of his upcoming “Mission Impossible 3” movie, helped mitigate an awkward situation when a demo of Go TV demo failed. “If you’re going to have a demo glitch, it helps to be able to follow up with Tom Cruise,” Semel cracked.

Demos of the Yahoo Go Mobile service were made by Yahoo COO Dan Rozensweig and senior VP Marco Boerries. Using the various devices, they were able to easily access any content stored on Yahoo’s site from any of the devices. During the presentation, Yahoo announced partnerships with both Nokia, for its Series 60 phones, and Motorola, which will make Yahoo Go available on some phone models immediately and its RAZR phone shortly. Cingular will also be supporting the service.

As part of a partnership announcement with Intel to optimize Go TV for higher-power PCs, such those powered by Intel’s Viiv chipsets, Intel CEO Paul Otellini made an appearance, showing off a small, bright yellow Viiv-based PC suitable for a living room, as well as a new concept PC called “The Slide,” essentially a full-featured PC in a handheld form factor. Otellini said a slightly larger version of the device, which has a 5-inch screen that slides up to reveal a hidden keyboard, would go into production later in the year.

Semel said that while some questioned Yahoo’s appearance at International CES, the company’s goal was to develop applications and services that will work with the hardware made by the companies attending the show. “We think the Internet isn’t a Web page … it’s actually an infrastructure and delivery vehicle for communication, experiences and entertainment. The next generation is about ease of use and open platforms that connect the Internet to any device you’ll be manufacturing.”