Yahoo Launches Tablet Platform Livestand

Yahoo wants to help magazine and newspaper companies thrive on tablet devices, while also ensuring that its own properties maintain their leadership positions on the new wave of touch screen, handheld devices.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.–based company has rolled out Livestand, a platform designed to serve as a central reading device for tablets such as Motorola’s just launched Xoom—but not Apple’s mega-hit iPad just yet. Livestand, due to launch some time during the first half of 2011, appears to be Yahoo’s answer to the popular iPad app Flipboard, which renders magazines more readable. When it goes live, Livestand will feature tablet-friendly versions of Yahoo’s biggest channels (Yahoo Sports, Yahoo News and Yahoo Finance, to name a few).

It will also house several tablet-optimized versions of magazines and newspapers in a user interface labeled “My Library.” Yahoo has yet to announce any partners for Livestand, though it did do a demonstration to reporters on Thursday (Feb. 10) showcasing Surfing magazine.

It will be special-interest magazines like Surfing that will likely gravitate to Livestand, said officials. “Of course, we’d like to work with big brands,” said Yahoo’s chief product officer Blake Irving. “But the real power [of Livestand] is in niche, passion brands…Most magazine content is still trapped offline.”

Eventually, Livestand will be open to anyone interested in creating a digital magazine, said Irv Henderson, Yahoo’s vp of mobile and connected devices. “That could be two guys in a garage somewhere,” he said and then added that that may also include members of Yahoo’s newspaper consortium.

Livestand is designed to learn about a user’s preferences over time and then surface custom content, explained Henderson.

While the product certainly looks promising—Henderson repeatedly used the words “beautiful” and “elegant” during the demo—it remains to be seen how much adoption Livestand will receive given that it is not yet available on the world’s most popular tablet device: Apple’s 15 million-unit-selling iPad. But the plan is to work with all platforms, said Henderson. “We are platform agnostic.” That means down the road Livestand may even find its way onto PCs and TVs.

Business-wise, Livestand will be free and ad-supported, with Yahoo sharing a percentage of the ad revenue with its partners.