Kara Swisher

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Kara Visits CES: Jerry Yang Emails It In

yang

How glad BoomTown was to finally see Jerry Yang up close and personal, after our valiant but futile efforts to get near the Yahoo co-founder and CEO in 2007.

No, we’re not stalking him in a restraining-order kind of way, although I did stake a claim to a front-row seat in the intimate theater at the Las Vegas Hilton for his keynote this morning at the Consumer Electronics Show, where Yang couldn’t help but see me.

Like he cared!

Not at all, as he was riveted to delivering his shtick about Yahoo’s mobile efforts (it’s a 3.0 version, according to Yang, which is a good move since Web 2.0–in general and in particular–has not been so kind to the Internet giant), as well as giving the audience a glimpse of some interesting new concepts related to its popular email program.

The front rows were so packed with top Yahoo execs–including President Sue Decker, as well as David Filo, Jeff Weiner, Brad Garlinghouse, Ash Patel, Dave Karnstedt, Bradley Horowitz, Hilary Schneider and even Chairman and former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel–that you had to wonder who was running the show back in Sunnyvale, Calif.

(I mean, say, if Google had decided to launch a sneak attack today with their bicycle brigade, it could have taken over Yahoo without a shot fired!)

Yang maintained a low-key tone throughout the presentation, as is his way (I kept imagining the performance being done by Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, who would have sold it all hard until he popped a vein).

Nonetheless, Yang did get the message through that opening its platform up to third-party developers would be a big push in 2008 for Yahoo.

So, the widgets in the excellent mobile product, called Yahoo! Go 3.0, are laudable and much more innovative than anything out there, even though Yahoo has been too quiet about marketing its Yahoo! Go product until now.

boerries

But at CES, Yang brought Yahoo Connected Life Executive Vice President Marco Boerries (pictured here) out to show off the mobile apps, including one from MTV (Viacom head Philippe Dauman and MTV Networks head Judith McGrath were in the audience) that seemed fun.

More interesting was Yang’s presenting new concepts for its Yahoo Mail product, which will be more social, relevant and integrated. A lot of this functionality is already being used by the open-source email company Zimbra, which Yahoo recently acquired (and whose head Satish Dharmaraj I interviewed last week).

As I wrote in that piece, I love the innovations, including ranking of those you email with most frequently and instant mapping from email, as well as a plethora of great features for email.

So, one vexing part of Yang’s presentation was that this concept needs to become a reality tomorrow. He brought out Co-Founder and interim CTO Filo to basically promise “soon,” but I say: Make it snappy!

I know, we’re pushy when it comes to Yahoo, but it’s because we care!

Well, care is not the right word exactly, but we are certain that a powerful and pioneering company like Yahoo can out-innovate these Web 2.0 newbies who get ridiculous funding to make goofy widgets and have the nerve to call it a business.

Thus, we took the chance and his prone position after the speech surrounded by well-wishers to go up and say hello in person to Yang, whom BoomTown has known for longer than either of us would care to say.

And, miracle of miracles, Yang said it had been far too long since we had gotten together and agreed to meet in 2008, a meeting for which we have been asking and egregiously posting about forever, to no avail.

How much does BoomTown love CES? Not so much.

But if it gets me lunch with Yang, I love it. So, Jerry, it’s officially 2008 and I am waiting by the phone for your call.

Here is my video of parts of Yang’s keynote:


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google