Strange New World: Picks of the Week

It seems like branching out was the theme this week in the strange new world of technology. Troubled portal Yahoo is opening a mini-site targeted at women. And Google is opening its online office productivity suite, Google Apps, to offline users. Finally, the big cell phone fete in Las Vegas, the CTIA Wireless 2008, is highlighting more than just dumb old cell phones: Now what you can do with that phone is as important as the unit itself.

At this rate, Microsoft will be getting into games, Sony into movies … Wait, didn't they do that already?

Here are our picks for the top tech stories of the week.

Will the Ladies Love Cool Yahoo?

Yahoo is pulling out all the stops trying to save itself from oblivion. The struggling Internet portal has decided to launch a new site aimed at the female 25-to-54 demographic.

''These women were sort of caretakers for everybody in their lives," says Amy Iorio, vice president for Yahoo Lifestyles. "They didn't feel like there was a place that was looking at the whole them — as a parent, as a spouse, as a daughter. They were looking for one place that gave them everything."

It is still too early to see how this will play out, but the site is informative and not at all pandering, at first blush. No articles, so far, detailing, "What Nail Polish Color Will Get Me a Rich Husband?"

This is Yahoo's first targeted site, and the Internet company may do more like it if this one takes off. The company is entering a market that already has a few similar sites ( iVillage, Jezebel), but it will get a lot of its content from established brands like Hearst Communications magazines Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Good Housekeeping and Rodale's Women's Health.

Google Docs Heads to the Desktop

It is getting downright ugly in the battle over word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. Google announced that its Google Docs office productivity suite will soon work both on- and offline.

When reached for comment, a Microsoft executive said, "Google better stay in their own yard or they will get the hose." Seriously, the new service will be quietly integrated into the Google Docs suite of word processing, spread-sheets and office presentation software over the coming week.

From what we are seeing, the service will have some serious game. The technology uses something called Google Gears, which lets users work with their documents both when they are connected to the Web and when they are offline. This move puts Google in direct competition with Microsoft and its Office product line. Google Docs can be clunky and you will miss many features found in Microsoft Word and Excel, but there is no hating the price: the service is free.

The E-Tech Awards

CTIA's (the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association) annual show is going on this week out in Vegas and hardware isn't the only story this year. In fact, CTIA has a neat award it gives out for innovative servicey-type things: The E-Tech Awards.

The awards show what is at the cutting edge of innovative services and technologies for cell phones. Here are the ones we liked, in no particular order:

The folks up at Sandvine have a cool business application that controls access to shared movies and audio on a network. An online collaborative environment works on cell phones from iVisit. The Wilson signal boosters for cellular antennae make your phone perform better. We liked what we saw in real time sports coverage for your phone from Jacked and Zumobi. And finally here's PhoneFusion, another unified communications player.

Jonathan Blum and Dan Evans co-host "Strange New World," a weekly syndicated radio show. Blum hosts the blog and Evans is a features editor at PC Magazine.