Yahoo!'s Finance Play; Wireless Deals Abound

The week is hoppin' already. Seymour weighs in on the new developments.
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Lots of news popping this week.

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

launched its new

FinanceVision

product at market opening Monday morning. While it's not (yet) the Web-based trading station a lot of us had been looking for, it's an interesting, useful and probably successful play -- and a logical next step for Yahoo!

You see your personal portfolio or watch list at the left edge of the screen, a running Yahoo! FinanceVision video at top left and text supporting that video -- for example, viewers' questions for people being interviewed in the video panel -- at top center and right. The rest of the screen -- most of it, on decent-sized displays -- is a window to your favorite Web site -- and yes,

TheStreet.com

is right there, as one of Yahoo! FinanceVision's editorial partners.

Very good for a first iteration. Look for Yahoo! to tweak and sharpen FinanceVision's focus over the next few months.

The gold rush to stake a claim in the soon-to-explode wireless-data/wireless-commerce (or "m-commerce," as I called it

here two weeks ago) markets continues.

Inktomi

(INKT)

announced Tuesday morning a big push into wireless. Although Inktomi is hardly unknown to tech-savvy investors, few know just how deeply the company's technology, and revenue, are embedded in high-profile Web sites. Inktomi provides the search engine and other technology for many Web sites -- to name a few:

America Online

(AOL)

,

Excite@Home

(ATHM) - Get Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

RealNetworks

(RNWK) - Get Report

,

Sun

(SUNW) - Get Report

-- and is also now big in caching for higher performance.

Inktomi says it will now go after a similar share of the wireless market, partnering with Sun,

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

,

Portal Software

(PRSF)

,

Spyglass

(SPYG) - Get Report

and others.

This is a logical and probably successful line extension for Inktomi. The market obviously agreed: Inktomi was up almost 10% Tuesday.

Portal Software may be a big winner here, too. With a $12 billion market cap, it is hardly a small company any more, and with a soaring stock -- it has quadrupled since last fall -- it's not an unknown. But Portal Software's customer-management and billing software is getting a lot of attention from major Web operators. I've been long Portal Software for some time, and expect to see it turn into a 10-bagger for me over the next year.

Getting an early position in m-commerce, and the wireless market generally, is an important step for Portal, too.

(Yes, the name stinks. I think it's clear many investors confuse Portal Software with companies trying to become Web portals -- a space long ago sold out. Portal's sag a couple of weeks ago, when portal stocks generally were getting killed, confirms that. Portal fell from around 84 to 69, then struggled back up to the low 70s, on no material news. My guess: The confusing name costs 'em, on average, 20 points at the current share price. You can laugh at their naming problem -- or see the current price, still 10% below its late-February high, as a buying opportunity.)

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

jumped further into m-commerce this week, too, announcing Monday that it had struck new deals for software and services for the wireless world with

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

,

Symbian

, Cisco,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Palm

(PALM)

.

It's increasingly clear that Uncle Lou's IBM isn't your uncle's IBM anymore; it's pushing hard to be a big player in the wireless-data-driven world. On the other hand, it hasn't got much choice.

Another big step in the evolution of the wireless market -- at least, in the financing of the wireless market -- was the long-awaited announcement last week of Seattle-based

Ignition

. Formed by a handful of ex-Microsoft and

McCaw Cellular

executives, with funding from

Softbank Ventures

,

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

and

Madrona Venture Group

, the company will function as a venture-capital shop, but also will keep its partners deeply involved in the companies it funds.

Indeed, while plans are still up in the air, it seems likely that Ignition also will have a significant role as (yet) another wireless-Net incubator, pulling together executives and engineers around ideas it comes up with itself for new wireless-data initiatives.

Led by Windows 95-meister Brad Silverberg, the team also includes ex-'Softies Chris Peters (who ran the Microsoft Office program, but has been more recently known for his determined and quixotic attempt to become a professional bowler), Rich Tong, Cam Myhrvold, Jon Roberts, Jon Anderson, John Ludwig and Satoshi Nacajima.

Ex-McCaw managers Kathy Iskra, ex-CFO of

Nextlink

(NXLK)

, and her former Nextlink colleagues Steve Hooper and Wayne Perry are in, too.

An equally heavy-hitting advisory board includes Myhrvold's brother, Microsoft visionary Nathan Myhrvold, and RealNetworks' founder and CEO Rob Glaser.

Silverberg and company form the wireless world's equivalent of the 1927

Yankees'

Murderers' Row: an unquestioned all-star team, with the potential to hit 'em out of the park again and again. I know several of these guys well; believe me, they're off the top of the charts on smarts, vision and relevant experience.

Though Ignition starts with $100 million in the bank from its partners and VC backers, it easily could increase that 10-fold this year, as it finds uses for more capital in the start-ups it spots and spawns. And I expect to see it do just that.

Though in recent years VC shops have been touting the depth of their partners' backgrounds in technology as one reason to take their money, no existing VC firm I know has the bench of Ignition -- nor the stated determination to use its partners' ideas and expertise to form new ventures.

This is a healthy development for the wireless-data business. By bringing together such a strong group with sufficient capital so early in the wireless-data market, Ignition seems likely to help launch genuinely new and, over time, successful companies.

Wish I had a piece of

that

action.

Jim Seymour is president of Seymour Group, an information-strategies consulting firm working with corporate clients in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and a longtime columnist for PC Magazine. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. At time of publication, Seymour was long TheStreet.com, Portal Software, Nokia and Cisco, although holdings can change at any time. Seymour does not write about companies that are current or recent consulting clients of Seymour Group. While Seymour cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites your feedback at

jseymour@thestreet.com.