Last year, NTT DoCoMo exported the successful i-mode concept overseas. A crucial part of that concept is the much talked-about mobile content and service provider “ecosystem” and – sure enough – Japan’s ecosystem players are following Big D’s path. Today we focus on three smaller players that have found honest-to-goodness cash revenue in Europe due at least in part to their Japan antecedents. Ironically, none are working with any of the baby i-modes over there, showing you don’t need DoCoMo to do what DoCoMo does – anywhere.
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
Last year, NTT DoCoMo took a drubbing on its overseas investments and ended up losing a hockey-sock full of cash. Nonetheless, the carrier did indeed achieve the goal of exporting its i-mode wireless Internet service to Holland, Germany, France, and other European markets.
More importantly, the i-mode model appears to have been enthusiastically accepted by the Europeans, and even would-be arch-rival Vodafone has copied the model’s concept with its fast-growing Vodafone Live mobile content service (and don’t take my word for this: I’m quoting AT Kearney telecoms practice head, Dr. Kamel Maamaria, from our WWJ video program #47).
Now that i-mode and the i-mode model are established in Europe, the question naturally arises: What about Japan’s content ecosystem players? Can they, too, see some success over there? The answer appears to be “yes,” and in today’s program, we profile three Tokyo-based mobile content, application, and service providers that have recently started to earn honest-to-goodness cash revenues in Europe.
The first, 104.com, is another past WWJ video program interviewee and creator of the “Xme” (kissme) content management platform successfully sold to several large mobile content owners here, including one of Japan’s leading daily newspapers. In late 2002, the firm announced a tie-up with the Orange Group, one of the world’s largest mobile communications companies (according to their site), with over 43 million customers in 21 countries across Europe and beyond, to provide their content management expertise to Orange. No value for the deal was announced, but – still – that’s not too bad for a bunch of no-tie-wearing software gurus from Tokyo’s drab Hongo-sanchome district.
The next, ImaHima.com, is a true venture startup, and has received funding by AOL Time Warner Ventures, the Aozora Bank Group, and others. ImaHima is also one of the original non-official i-mode content providers (it didn’t appear on the official menu due to its community-style service which DoCoMo has never allowed). ImaHima also created the AOL chat client for the joint DoCoMo-AOL service (“AOLi”). The company seems to be enjoying steady if modest success, and have licensed an SMS-based version of ImaHima to a GSM carrier in Switzerland.
Finally, we visit G-Mode, another past WWJ focus company who announced late in 2002 that they had started providing Java games to Vodafone’s Live service together with Taito and Namco.
Ironically, none of these providers are specifically working with any of the baby i-modes in Europe (or, at least, have not publicly said they are), leading to the conclusion that you don’t need DoCoMo to do what DoCoMo does.
In other words, these players all understand the i-mode model developed here and as the rest of the world’s mobile Webs come up to scratch and adopt Big D’s wireless business model, they are more than willing to work with whoever, wherever to export and tailor content or content management tools. And they’re earning revenues. I, for one, think that’s pretty cool.