Java continues to be one of mobile Japan’s little-told success stories. We drop by J-Phone/Vodafone to find out who’s using Java, how “applis” are loaded onto the portal, and how “desktop” applications function. Already, Java content providers are focusing on the desktop appli as a way to capture and maintain new subscribers, since the always-on functionality tends to drive loyalty. We also get a live demo of downloading and running Java games. There’s an ecosystem brewing here, and the aroma is pure success. Wireless marketing heads everywhere: Pay Attention!
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
One of the major factors behind Java’s success in Japan (DoCoMo alone has some 15 million users) is the fact that carriers take the lead in establishing, fostering, and maintaining a complex Java “ecosystem” (however paternalistic that may be) comprising network engineering staff; Web portal staff; marketing, sales, and PR staff; handset manufacturers; 3rd party content, application, and service developers; and — last — Java users.
Speaking in February this year, NTT DoCoMo’s Takeshi Natsuno (i-mode’s chief strategist) compared i-mode services, including DoCoMo’s i-Appli Java service, to an “ecosystem,” stating:
The success of i-mode would not have happened if any one of us — DoCoMo, content providers, mobile phone manufacturers — did not exist.
Natsuno added that, by maintaining the balance of this ecosystem, each company can benefit in the spiral of this “value chain.” Natsuno also said that when DoCoMo goes global, “We have no intention of marketing i-mode as a technology — we hope to keep the successful value chain model.”
Clearly, the carriers are the significant players in the mobile Java space, so we decided it was high time to drop by one of them and poke and probe their Java spawn. In this week’s program, we speak with Fusashi Asami, supervisor in J-Phone’s J-Sky promotion department, and an all-round knowledgeable guy when it comes to their “Java-Appli” service. Asami-san talks about how developers get their Java application approved by J-Phone and uploaded onto the carrier’s portal, who Java users are, what kind of content is booming, and — perhaps most importantly — what’s coming in the future. He also offers a firm boost to Java’s move overseas, and believes that Java can be deployed in any market, not just Japan.
Asami-san also mentions “desktop applications.” These are new in Japan, and are based on the newer handsets’ ability (DoCoMo: 504i-series; J-Phone: 51-series; KDDI: C3000/5000-series) to allow the user to select one (and only one) Java appli to be used as the default desktop appli — which then runs all the time — even when the phone is closed or the owner is busy surfing the Web or sending mail to buddies.
This opens up an entirely new category of handset functionality. Some desktop applis track simple info like the time, the weather, and the owner’s calling record (and immediately display this info whenever the phone is opened); other, more sophisticated applis, track the handset’s location (using GPS or cell location).