We earlier wrote a news story that Yahoo! would be overhauling the company's smartphone policy and give free smartphones to employees. Among the new CEO Marissa Mayer's strategic shifts when she came onboard as chief executive is to revamp the company as a product company. As such, she wants employees to be able to think from the perspective of a consumer, and not just an engineer, developer, designer or marketer.
As such, with the mobile experience becoming more and more the preferred means of accessing content and connecting, Marissa wants Yahoos to ditch the old corporate smartphone plans, and move toward more consumer-oriented platforms. Business Insider was able to get their hands on a copy of the memo, and I quote:
We have a very exciting update to share with you today – we are announcing Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun! As of today, Yahoo is moving off of blackberries as our corporate phones and on to smartphones in 22 countries. A few weeks ago, we said that we would look into smartphone penetration rates globally and take those rates into account when deciding on corporate phones. Ideally, we’d like our employees to have devices similar to our users, so we can think and work as the majority of our users do.
Moving forward, we'll offer you a choice of devices as well as provide monthly plans for the data and phone.
The smartphone choices that we are including in the program are:
We're getting started right away and taking orders starting now.
While it's a given that Yahoo! has now confirmed to be giving smartphones to employees, I have a few observations, which might be relevant in the smartphone market and the mobile industry in general.
First, Yahoo! specifically excluded the BlackBerry platform in its smartphone announcement. I earlier noted the same observation when the news (or rumor) first broke out. In this instance, Mayer's memo does not even refer to the platform as a smartphone platform. They are “moving off of blackberries … and on to smartphones,” she says. This could be just another nail in the coffin for Research-in-Motion, given their struggles in the mobile market in the U.S.
I don't have anything against BlackBerry. I use a Curve regularly, and BBM can be fun (and cheap!). But perhaps what RIM is missing here is the idea that a closed platform without market growth can be one straight path to extinction for that particular platform. (And by platform, I mean the communication network among users, and not just the OS itself. Think BBM versus something cross-platform like Google Talk or Skype.)
I guess Yahoo! shares the same sentiment, given that one of the company's core markets (the U.S.) does not even consider BlackBerry a major smartphone platform anymore, at least in terms of volume.
Second, companies seem to be jumping on the opportunity to market their products. The Next Web reports of Nokia offering freebies when Yahoo! employees choose to go for a Nokia Lumia as their smartphone choice. Nokia’s Doug Dawson tweeted: “Dear Yahoo! employees: The Lumia 920 is worth the wait…and we’ll throw in a wireless charging plate. Totally serious.”
Even amid its corporate troubles, Yahoo! is still a relevant company in today's connected world, with 10,000 employees worldwide (as TNW estimates). As such, whichever platform it goes for would matter not only within its employee base, but with how the company pursues its mobile strategy moving forward.
The great thing about Yahoo!, though, is that unlike Google, Apple, Microsoft or even RIM, they don't have to “eat their own dogfood.” That is, the company is free to pursue whichever platform it wants — or even multiple platforms, as is the case — given that it's not deeply involved with just one.
Third, reporting media put their spin on the campaign. With the launch of the new iPhone, some sites headlined that Yahoo! was giving everyone free iPhone 5s. I know I'm also guilty of this, since I earlier headlined that Yahoo! was going to give free iPhones and Android phones. Just a minor observation, really. But it underscores how the media could sometimes be biased, or how news headlines could sensationalize just to catch attention.
At any rate, I personally laud Yahoo! for this move. Forcing a single platform onto employees all these years might have resulted in reduced productivity and closed off any opportunities to grow in an increasingly evolving environment. With this BYOD policy being in effect at Yahoo!, employees are bound to think of the mobile experience as an exercise in unity amid diversity (think cross-compatibility and consistency across iOS, Andriod and Windows apps). Perhaps this Yahoo! Smartphones program will result in great mobile apps and services from the company in the near future.