Ailing Internet giant Yahoo! this week unveiled its plans to consolidate its smart phone-based mobile services into a more cohesive experience that closely resembles Apple iPhone user interface. The new UI, called Yahoo! Mobile, differs from competing offerings, however, in that it runs on a variety of incompatible and competing smart phone systems.

"We believe the new Yahoo! Mobile will transform the way millions of mobile users around the world will interact with the Internet," says Yahoo! executive vice president Marco Boerries. "Yahoo Mobile will enable users to create their own Internet starting point on their mobile device so they can better discover, connect to and stay informed about the people and things that are important to them."

As with many other mobile initiatives announced this week at the Mobile World Congress 2009 in Barcelona, Spain, Yahoo! initiative targets the rapidly growing market for consumer-oriented smart phones, a market that is one day expected to be the largest computing audience in the world. By not tying Yahoo! Mobile to a single phone system, however, Yahoo! has a chance to gain ubiquity regardless of which mobile OS becomes dominate. Yahoo! Mobile is available as a native application on Blackberry, iPhone, Symbian, and Windows Mobile phones, but it also runs as a mobile Web application.

Yahoo! Mobile will be rolled out in phases, and the company says that public beta versions for Apple's iPhone and the mobile Web should become available in March. Those versions feature interfaces for Yahoo! Search, email and IM, news and RSS feeds, and other Yahoo! services. A beta version for other smart phones is due in May, the company says.

To achieve cross-platform compatibility via the mobile Web, Yahoo! is also promoting the Opera Mini mobile browser and will distribute that product with its Yahoo! Mobile offerings. Like Yahoo! Mobile, Opera Mini is a free offering.