I picked up the November cell phone catalogs from several carriers the other day, including DoCoMo (for 3G FOMA), KDDI, and Tu-ka, as well as the J-Sky service catalog from J-Phone. You really needn't look much further than these monthly catalogs if you want a concise, full-color, and neatly packaged window into the marketing plans and keitai sales hopes of the major Japanese carriers. Depending on which handset you have, you can now access data networks at 9.6, 28.8, 64, or 384 Kbps - and many devices can access two networks. Note that 64 Kbps data is available via FOMA (the 3G network) and via PHS (not formally called "2G" but certainly not 3G). Finally, there's the Mzone WLAN service that operates at hotspots inside the Yamanote line and at a few other locations.
If you're going to build one of those tiny i-mode websites or create a downloadable Java application (Games, anyone?), then you're going to have to test your software before going live - and that means using emulator tools. If you don't, you have to use actual handsets for testing and the packet fees would wipe out even the fattest bank account. We visit leading provider Zentek, and then speak with Tokyo University expert Dr. Sam Joseph - who has a lot of experience in making emulators actually emulate. Want to know what portion of a mobile project's costs are consumed by testing prior to launch? Watch this one.
Industry Leaders NTT DoCoMo, Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens, Japanese Manufacturers Reach Mutual Understanding to Support Modest Royalty Rates for W-CDMA Technology Worldwide. As essential patent holders, Japanese manufacturers Fujitsu, Matsushita Communication Industrial (Panasonic), Mitsubishi Electric, NEC and Sony Corporation have also expressed their willingness to co-operate with such arrangements.
DoCoMo's recent troubles highlight a fundamental aspect of Japan's wireless Internet revolution that I haven't seen discussed much - namely, the sheer improbability of it all. In 1999 and 2000, during the ascendancy of i-mode, headlines and media quotes from interested parties were quick to praise the insight and innovation of those involved in i-mode's creation, including the famous Enoki-Matsunaga-Natsuno troika as well as sundry network engineers, Internet-savvy marketers, and handset designers both inside DoCoMo and out.
One of the best aspects of working at WWJ in Japan - the country most responsible for creating the post-war consumer electronics revolution - has to be covering the trade shows. October's CEATEC is one of Asia's coolest (and largest) electronics showcase events, and Japan's cell-phone makers rolled out their very best gear. We speak with Sharp about camera keitai (What's the cost to add a camera-thingy to a phone?), Hitachi about cell phones morphing into computers (cellys now have 133-MHz CPUs - same as PCs used to), and take a look at J-Phone's first 3G handset from Sanyo. One of our best programs to date!
The past few days have seen Japan's big electronic makers releasing their quarterly and semiannual results, and the news from Sony, NEC, Fujitsu, and others has been mostly bad where cell phones are concerned. There have also been a lot of media reports on Japan's ailing phone tanmatsu (terminal) market, and it appears that majors changes are underway. First, the media reports. On October 10 JEITA announced that domestic shipments of cellular phones fell 18.3 percent in August 2002 from a year earlier to 3.26 million units. The drop resumed a 13-month-long decline that was only broken (briefly) in July 2002 due to sales of camera-equipped models. Moreover, shipments of PHS handsets fell by 64 percent to 73,000 units (extending their losing streak to 18months!).
Our final program from Sun's JavaOne conference sees Rich Green, VP and General Manager for Java software, fielding questions on the content provider ecosystem, the transfer of made-in-Japan mobile programming expertise to overseas markets, and how terminals are becoming ever more complicated - due at least in part to Java. One of the most interesting questions that Rich addresses is whether carriers outside Japan will be able to create and foster a "content ecosystem" similar to that established domestically by NTT DoCoMo (and, to a similar degree if not extent, competitors J-Phone and KDDI) -- which many have pointed to as a major reason behind the success of mobile computing (and Java) on Japan's wireless webs.
WWJ contributor Michael Thuresson was in Las Vegas, Nevada, last week and managed to pull himself away from the one-armed bandits long enough to drop in on the CTIA "Wireless IT and Internet 2002" fall show. His report below was culled from a late-night, bleary-eyed email dispatch (italicized annotations partly contributed by me). Who says war correspondents in Kandahar have more fun than tech stringers in Vegas? ;-)
This week, we finish our two-part interview series with James Gosling, founder of the Java programming language now being applied to diverse mobile uses in Japan and elsewhere. Some people have concluded that lessons from Japan's weird, mutant keitai market -- with a single dominant carrier and mobs of cell-phone-obsessed gadgety commuters -- just don't apply in normal places like North America and Europe. The inventor of Java says, "I think those people are deluding themselves. They don't appreciate the extent to which people in North America [also] find that technological devices actually make a difference." Part II of one of WWJ's most intriguing interviews ever.
I received some interesting commentary last week from Kennedy Gitchel, self-described "Long-time Japan resident and wireless watcher" and -- until recently -- consultant at a major foreign consulting house. Gitchel was responding to a recent WWJ Viewpoint wherein we stated "the cost of fixed-line access plays very little or **no** part in Japan's mobile Net boom," to point out that the initial total cost of fixed line access is, in fact, a hefty proposition when you consider both the cost of installing a new phone line and monthly fees together.
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