In what appears to be a fairly important development for Yahoo India, Yahoo Inc has inked a global deal with chipset manufacturer MediaTek to embed Yahoo’s services into MediaTek’s mobile platform solutions. A statement from the companies suggests that the product development roadmap covers MediaTek’s MAUI Runtime Environment, widget capable ‘Smart Feature phones’ and the Android platform, and services included in the roadmap are Yahoo! Messenger, Mail, News, Weather, Finance, Cricket, Flickr and Answers; more may be added subsequently. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Why this is significant for Yahoo India?

MediaTek powers the chipsets for many feature phones in the market – companies like MicroMax, Spice Mobiles, Lemon, Karbonn, Intex, Olive, Videocon, among several others – many of them import customized handsets from China which use the MediaTek chipset and platform. The partnership allows Yahoo to extend its presence across several handset manufacturers across the Indian market – a market which has fragmented significantly, and where MediaTek powered handsets are taking market share from incumbents like Nokia. For Yahoo India, this deal could lead to greater distribution of its services, and an increase in available advertising inventory on mobile.

Feature phone handset manufacturers in India have, in the past, used applications to market their handsets – essentially smart phone and mobile Internet services, at low cost. That said, when I tried using such a phone (over a year ago), it was incredibly tedious: the applications would take 10-15 seconds to load, and almost as long to close, because they probably didn’t have adequate processing power.

However, availability as a default application trumps having to download it from an app store, and this is the same advantage that services on SIM Toolkits have – that discovery is not an issue, and the service is available as default. Yahoo can only gain from such a deal, with a wider distribution for its services. I doubt there would be any exclusivity involved, though, since it is in MediaTek’s benefit to have as many services on its platform as possible. If there is exclusivity, then Yahoo would be paying for it.

In India, Yahoo also has mobile deals with several telecom operators; last year, the company had introduced an Alcatel handset pre-loaded with Yahoo content, and a single button access to Yahoo services, for Tata Docomo customers.

Forced Or Optional?

In a statement, Ming-Kai Tsai, Chairman of MediaTek, says that their collaboration with Yahoo “makes it more convenient for handset manufacturers to accelerate their speed to market and to reduce their deployment cost of those popular services.” Thus it is not clear whether Yahoo services will be forced on to handsets, or merely easily available and cheaper to deploy. We doubt that deployment will be forced, and that statement suggests it will be optional.

We’ll keep an eye out for Indian services on MediaTek.