Yahoo Wednesday launched several applications for the iPad, including Livestand, a “digital newsstand” it announced in February that was supposed to ship in the first half of the year.
The embattled company also announced IntoNow for the iPad, which lets TV viewers discover programs and discuss them with their friends, as well as a Yahoo Mail application for the iPad and a Yahoo Weather application for Android devices.
Yahoo also announced new social features for its News site, including allowing people to have group discussions on the site, and notifications that ping users when content they’re interested in hits the site.
The announcements were made at an event called Yahoo Product Runway, where company officials also discussed a number of back-end technologies that are powering the new applications.
Repeating the mantra that Yahoo is the world’s “premier digital company,” Chief Product Officer Blake Irving tried to shift the focus to the new Yahoo products and away from questions about the struggling company’s future.
“I’m more bullish about Yahoo today” than last month or a year ago, he said.
Yahoo’s financial performance has been lackluster this year, and it has been without a permanent CEO since Carol Bartz was fired in early September. Rumors have swirled that the company is the object of acquisition interest from a variety of suitors, including Google, AOL and private investors.
The product at the center of today’s event, Livestand, may reflect problems with execution at Yahoo, because the company originally intended to ship it in the first half of the year, and not just for iPad but for Android devices as well.
And now Livestand, not yet available for Android, faces other competitors including the well-regarded Flipboard and a similar product that Google reportedly plans to launch soon called Propeller.
Asked to comment about the delay in shipping Livestand, Irving defended its development process, saying that it relies on some key back-end technologies Yahoo worked hard to get right, like HTML5.
There is no other tablet application that uses HTML5 with the level of “richness” of Livestand, Irving said.
Livestand delivers articles, photos, videos, graphics and ads from Yahoo sites and from third-party online publications in a format that is optimized for the iPad.
It has personalization capabilities, so that content is tailored to readers’ preferences and tastes, and gives marketers the ability to create ads that are much more engaging and immersive than is possible in PC browsers, Irving said.
Meanwhile, IntoNow, which Yahoo acquired in April and which has been available for iPhones since January, has been reworked for the iPad.
It retains its core functionality — detecting the sound of TV programs coming from TV sets or computers and attempting to identify the program and specific episode that’s playing, so that users can share that information with their friends.
But the iPad version goes a step further by also surfacing related Web content, such as news articles related to the TV program being watched, without the need for users to actively seek that content.
Throughout the event, Yahoo officials touted new back-end technologies that they said are key for the applications being introduced.
One of them is called CORE (Content Optimization Relevance Engine), which drives Yahoo’s personalization functionality. Another is the Cocktails platform for rapid development and hosting HTML5-based applications.