Yahoo Upgrades Mail Service as Mayer Targets Google

Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) unveiled new features and a graphics-rich design to its mail website and mobile applications as Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer steps up competition with Google Inc.

The revamped site lets users customize their Yahoo mail inboxes with background colors and images from the Flickr photo service, and see conversation threads and attachments more easily, Jeff Bonforte, senior vice president of communication products, said in an interview. The updates also applied to Yahoo’s mail apps for Apple Inc.’s iPhones and iPads, Google’s Android phones and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 8 devices.

Mayer has emphasized new products -- as well as acquisitions and hiring -- as she attempts to revive growth at the biggest U.S. Web portal. In particular, the CEO has refocused the Sunnyvale, California-based company on the kind of habit-forming content that people view on tablets and phones to spur more revenue from mobile.

“I hope that at some point we are looking at a world where mobile is a majority of our revenue,” she told Bloomberg Businessweek in August.

Mayer has introduced a spate of product updates in the past year, including new versions of Flickr, Yahoo News, sports and the news feed on the company’s home page. Mayer has also been buying startups, such as the $1.1 billion purchase of blogging platform Tumblr Inc. earlier this year, which expanded Yahoo’s audience by 50 percent to more than 1 billion monthly visitors.

Mobile Mail

The Yahoo mail changes come six months after the company unveiled its first mail app for tablets, and apps that encourage users to perform a “triage” of their inbox by swiping messages into groups organized by sender. Yahoo Mail, used by more than 100 million users daily, competes with Google (GOOG)’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook.com.

The new design is better suited to smartphones and tablets with higher-resolution screens and more processing power than mobile devices of the past, Bonforte said.

“We wanted to make an inbox that felt more personalized but we also wanted to take advantage of the fact that some of the screens people are using are higher density,” he said.

Bonforte was put in charge of communications products after Yahoo acquired his startup, Xobni Corp., for about $70 million in July. Some features of Xobni, a contact management application, may be included in future updates to Yahoo Mail, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Douglas MacMillan in San Francisco at dmacmillan3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at ptam13@bloomberg.net

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