Yahoo Inc ousted archrival Google in a deal with T-Mobile in Europe and unveiled a service to squeeze social Web connections on to phone screens on Tuesday, a day after rebuffing a $41.6 billion takeover bid from Microsoft.
Wireless content is in the spotlight at the industry's showcase event, Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona until Thursday.
The lines between handset makers, software companies, Internet groups and telecom giants are blurring as phone makers, for example, tap burgeoning markets for content once reserved for computers and TV screens.
Marco Boerries, the executive vice president in charge of Yahoo's mobile phone push, said his personal goal is to tap partnerships to reach a potential audience of 1 billion subscribers by the end of 2009.
Yahoo's new tool called oneConnect can fit snippets of popular Web services -- from Yahoo as well as rivals such as Microsoft, Google or Facebook -- onto mobile phone screens.
The software goes out to the Web to find contact details of friends in services such as MySpace, AIM, Bebo, Xing, Friendster or Orkut and merges them into the user's mobile phone address book.
Once the free service becomes established, Yahoo plans to introduce discreet advertising on parts of oneConnect, sharing the revenues with phone operator partners.
Today, most people have too many forms of communications, said Boerries, executive vice president of Yahoo's Connected Live division. To keep in touch with all of them you have to go to all of these different Web sites.
He said in an interview that major phone carriers worldwide have agreed to support oneConnect, allowing hundreds of millions of mobile customers to exchange send e-mail, instant messages, photo-sharing and social-network site updates.
OneConnect will be made available in the United States in the second quarter and versions of it will be able to run on a majority of mass-market mobile phones. Boerries said versions for Europe and Asia would follow.
Yahoo said it will create special versions to work on Apple's iPhone and Research in Motion's Blackberry.
Yahoo wants to open up its services to work on an equal footing with those of rivals, making it a more relevant starting point for accessing the Web.
Users of oneConnect will be able to move back and forth between services, chatting via mobile text messaging, for example, then flicking to an instant message service to hold a longer conversation without incurring per-message charges.
Also on Tuesday, German mobile operator T-Mobile announced a switch to Yahoo from Google for Web services in northern and central Europe.
Yahoo stands to reach nearly 90 million phone customers through the deal, which covers T-Mobile users in 11 European nations including Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, as well as Britain, where they had an existing deal.
Boerries said partnerships struck with mobile carriers over the past year have given the company access to 600 million potential phone customers.
Yahoo has suffered repeated setbacks against Google in Internet search and advertising, and Google countered again on Tuesday with a broad pact that will put its Web search on a variety of Nokia phones.
Nokia sells 40 percent of the world's mobile phones.