Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer launches new drinking game at Davos: Every time she says “mobile” take a shot

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer joined the proud tradition of valley CEOs traveling halfway around the world before opening up to provide an interesting interview about what’s going on at their companies.

Ah, Davos. Bloomberg Television is calling its Swiss sit-down with the rock star CEO at the World Economic Forum as her first one-on-one interview since becoming CEO. For the time-challenged, here’s a brief summary of the half-hour interview: mobile, mobile, mobile. She said “mobile” a lot.

“I think there are amazing things you get to see all the time,”  all kinds of amazing technologies on mobile,” Mayer said concerning  what technology excites her. “When you think about what it means to be location sensitive…Some of these are very basic in terms of things like being able to check in, so there’s Foursquare, but if you actually know where people are and where they check in, there are all sorts of sophisticated and interesting thing you can go on to do.”

But Mayer made it clear that Yahoo wasn’t going to be doing those sophisticated and interesting things on its own. Maybe it was the Swiss air, but Mayer was all about alliances when she talked to Bloomberg TV’s Erik Shatzer about Yahoo’s mobile strategy. (They do so have one.)

When Shatzker asked Mayer how Yahoo would compete with the Big Four — Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon — given that the company doesn’t have a mobile operating system, mobile hardware, a browser or a social platform, Mayer said she’d been asked the same question by a Yahoo employee.

Her answer?

“Of the four horsemen of the Internet to adopt that analogy, almost all of them are playing in one if not several of those medium. I think that the big piece here is that it really allows us to partner. Yahoo has always been a very friendly company. Our focus, in addition to technology, but also on media, it means there is an opportunity for strong partnerships. That is what we will be focused on.”

Here’s Tech Crunch’s take on that.

OK, I exaggerate. Mayer did stray from the mobile in her chat with Schatzker. She also talked about what a fun place Yahoo is and how that fun translates into creativity and how Yahoo pretty much has all the online assets anybody would want. She told Bloomberg:

“So the nice thing at Yahoo is that we have all of the content that people want on their phone, we have these daily habits. And I think that whenever you’re dealing with a daily habit and providing a lot of value around it there is an opportunity not only to provide a lot of value to the end user but to also create a great business.”

She moved on to privacy, a topic near and dear to all of us who are constantly giving ours up to huge Internet companies:

“I think that privacy will always be something that users should consider but I also think that privacy is always a trade-off. Because when you give up some of your information you get some functionality in return. So it’s really about making those trade-offs in a very informed way. For me the core principles of privacy online are transparency, choice and control,” she said. “I also fundamentally believe that user data belongs to the end user.”

For those who find privacy oh-so mundane, Mayer moved on to the subject of the “ontology of entities– ” but let’s get back to mobile.

Yes, as a matter of fact, Mayer said, she has heard some have doubts about just how companies will make money on mobile. In fact, she’s been there before, at Google, when skeptics wondered about making money from search.

“It was the bane of my existence from about 1999 to 2004,” Mayer told Schatzker. Search is wonderful, people would say to her, but “how is anybody ever going to make any money from it?”

And now that seems absurd,” she continued. “Whenever you see consumers adopting a technology, a platform, a particular application, like search, with this much volume, you know that advertisers will want to participate in that.”

Of course it’s hard to argue that search didn’t work out well for Google. As for Yahoo and mobile? Maybe Mayer can update us next year — at Davos.

(Photo by the Associated Press)





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