Yahoo buys Android launcher Aviate

For many people, one of the great things about Android is the ability to customize. While iOS offers the ability to change your wallpaper, customization pretty much stops there. Google's mobile operating system is quite different, since it permits the installation of different launchers. If you aren't familiar, a launcher is essentially the UI. In other words, a user can change not only the look of their device, but how they interface with it too. Many manufacturers ship devices with their own launchers, rather than the stock variant. Luckily, if the consumer dislikes the one that comes with their Android device, they can download a different one such as Nova or Apex; two very popular launchers.

However a relatively new launcher has been taking the Android community by storm -- Aviate. Part of the allure of this launcher is that it is invite-only. However, once invited, the user can then invite five people. This allowed Aviate to spread virally; after all, people desire what they can't have. Apparently, Marissa Mayer did not want to wait for an invite. The Yahoo CEO had the company buy Aviate outright. Does this signal a future Yahoo smartphone?

"Today, at CES, we announced the acquisition of Aviate, a company that shares our vision for simple and intelligent mobile experiences. The Aviate team has created a product that changes the way users interact with their Android devices by connecting them to information at the moment it's useful [...] We hope to make Aviate a central part of our Android-based experiences in 2014 (and beyond), and we are committed to continued innovation on the product", says Adam Cahan, SVP Mobile and Emerging Products, Yahoo.

Cahan further says, "we envision homescreens becoming smarter, more personalized, aware of your context. Aviate helps us bring this vision to life. Aviate auto-categorizes apps on your Android phone and intelligently gathers them into 'spaces'. By using signals to understand your context - WIFI, GPS, Accelerometer, Time, etc -- Aviate automatically surfaces information at the moment it's useful. So whether you're just waking up, driving, at work, or maybe out for the night, Aviate learns your habits and helps anticipate the information and apps you need -- making your phone smarter".

I have been testing the launcher and find it very useful. It learns your behaviors and customizes itself; it is reminiscent of Google Now. Surprisingly, even though it is in the beta-stage, it is fast and for me, bug free. I can see myself using this as my main launcher.

The big question though, is why does Yahoo really want Aviate? While my gut tells me that Yahoo wants to release its own skinned Android phone (pure speculation), I would hope the company learned its lesson from Facebook. If you do not recall, Facebook released its own launcher and skinned phone with disastrous results (the HTC First was abruptly cancelled).

While the launcher is still in private beta and "invite-only", the first 25,000 people that download the launcher and use the code "YAHOO" can activate it. However, this code will likely be used-up rather quickly.

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