LG Goes Google, Virgin Picks Yahoo

The struggle for dominance in the mobile software arena continues to heat up with two announcements today: South Korean phone maker LG announced plans to pre-install Google mobile applications on mobile handsets in North America, Europe, and Asia, while Virgin Mobile announces it plans to offer Yahoo mobile applications on selected handsets.

The deal between Yahoo and Virgin Mobile is the less-sweeping of the two: Virgin Mobile plans to offer Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Messenger for download to several Virgin Mobile handsets beginning in early April, and will preload the applications onto selected phones in the future. Virgin Mobile also plans to roll out additional Yahoo services, including Yahoo’s oneSearch and additional messaging services, but no firm dates were offered. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

LG’s agreement with Google, however, is more clearly defined: LG will pre-install mobile versions of Google Maps, GMail, and Blogger on selected LG handsets offered for sale in North America, Europe, and Asia beginning in the second quarter of 2007. “We’re pleased to work with LG to make it easier than ever for mobile internet users to have powerful applications and personalized information at their fingertips,” said Google director of product management Deep Nishar, in a release. “Users around the world now have more options for accessing information while on-the-go through search and Gmail. With applications like Blogger, users are now free to express themselves from wherever they are in the world.” The deal will cover the release of at least 10 new handset models and extend through at least 2009; again, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Both moves underscore handset makers’ and mobile operators desire to push consumer mobile phones strongly into the area of data services. Internet-based mobile offering not only make new mobile handsets more attractive to consumers, but drive new revenue channels for mobile network operators, who increasingly rely on data- and media-related services to fuel their companies, rather than voice communications.