Looking at the calendar – Hey! – 10 years ago today we sent out the 1st Wireless Watch Japan newsletter.. http://bit.ly/ghgNWx
It’s 23 March 2011 and we’re looking back at the very first Wireless Watch Japan Newsletter! Yes, a full decade faithfully dedicated to covering the mobile industry in Japan, the Heart of the ®evolution. While it’s tempting to get all misty eyed about our humble beginnings and the countless keystrokes – let alone Tokyo metro rides – it’s perhaps best now to simply pass along a deep bow to you all, our loyal readers, who have followed us on this great adventure and helped make WWJ a living media.. What A Wild Ride It’s Been!
When we started, the heady early days of mobile web was still unfolding – now the i-Mode model has spread into an App-crazed world overseas. Today we still see the same exciting business opportunities observed back in 2001 – on a far wider scale. Japan’s ‘A-ha!’ moment on the true potential for mobile business is finally being realized on a global stage. The platform comparisons between Japan and the rest of the world – we have used to illustrate just how cool Japan’s mobile internet really is – raised many eyebrows during presentations at conferences over the last year or so.. as you might imagine.
Simply put: it’s always been about the holistic ecosystem. To be fair, this game theory concept can trace even earlier roots to the Nintendo platform and (as we have said many times) it’s a business model – not proprietary IP. Apple, and now Google – like DoCoMo – have carved a command position in the value chain. With that in mind, see the Android story via Wikipedia, while noting the key members (we count 12 from Japan) from the Open Handset Alliance (OHAyo!), is worth a quick read.
Of course with all cylinders firing a well-oiled machine is ripe for having additional, even more interesting, parts bolted on. We saw the camera become useful for scanning QR codes circa 2003, Flash-lite became a defacto standard, enabling tons of web-based dynamic content from 2004, followed by FeliCa for NFC transactions, 1Seg digital terrestrial broadcasting and affordable flat-rate data plans all of which had gained real adoption here by 2005. Each of these areas are now very well-established here and are looming on the horizon or, to various degrees, already available in markets elsewhere. Vive le i-Mode model!
For all the concern about Japan being a Galapagos (suggest Atlantis 3.0 is more accurate), it is clear that major players here have managed to design, build and successfully deploy what has become ‘the’ standard model for adoption worldwide. While mainstream media is focused on the lack of domestic ‘branded’ handsets in global markets, they have either missed – or worse, ignored – the point. According to JEITA estimates, and recently noted by iSuppli, some 40% of the internal components (batteries, screen display, memory chips, etc.) in all handsets around the world – are produced by Japanese companies. Also important, it’s essential IP from the likes of NEC, Panasonic, DoCoMo, Mitsubishi and Fujitsu that enables 3G devices (globally) to connect to a wireless network in the first place! It would be a safe bet there are plenty more Japan success stories to come.
If there is one, of many, lessons learned about the way business is conducted here it’s this: There is a radical attention to the smallest details in a quiet, humble and methodical way – and that sword cuts both ways. On one hand, the razor focus is on delivering stable long-term revenues and this means empty hype is scorned to the extreme. However, it also seems that even when there is a truly exciting and valuable story to tell; managing that message, in an oh-so Madison Avenue kind of way, is.. well.. difficult for the Japanese. Considering this is the air we also breathe, to some degree, WWJ has also been infected with those same strengths and challenges.
A fair question that many of you will be asking, as we have come to expect, will be: what’s next? The pat answer is basically: More — of everything! Now, as we see platforms and devices with speedy connections and clear billing proliferating worldwide, a rush of mobile contents and services will be lining up for digital dollars everywhere. The so-called trinity of networks, hardware and content bits in the ether pipe, which was pioneered in Japan shortly before we launched WWJ, is just starting to really see daylight on other regions. Several sources indicate that page view requests from mobile devices exceeded the volume from PC requests here last year and industry titans, like Mary Meeker, routinely use Japan as the industry benchmark for telecom markets in America and Europe. At the same time, it’s interesting to note the success of certain offerings from overseas entering this market. Twitter, for an immediate obvious example, claimed their world record ‘tweets-per-second’ was set here on New Years Eve, with, quite certainly, a large portion coming from mobile.
It would be simple enough to guess that there will likely be 5G in the not-too-distant future and holographic displays are perhaps not beyond reasonable expectations. There is plenty of buzz in the social, location, M2M and AR space now already and looking back, 10 years is a looong time that will zip by in a heartbeat. For a peek at the future potential we think this DoCoMo 2020 Vision video would be a fun 10-minutes well-spent.
Meanwhile, maybe a little accounting is in order: we have built an impressive email database and posted just over 3,500 articles – near daily, on average – during these years. Being in Tokyo at mobile ground zero and pumping news in English led to our connection with the MobileMonday movement from Finland in 2004 and we launched the very first city chapter outside Helsinki. That global community has now grown into +100 locations worldwide and we’ve built a fantastic network with local and international contacts as a direct result. The last few years has seen a steady increase in client work with some of the largest (and many under-the-radar) brands who understand this is a market they need to watch closely.
As with all milestones, reviewing this ‘chapter’ in time has us pondering our best next steps. So expect to see some changes here in the coming months and with that thought in mind: