Global Lessons from Mobile Computing in Japan
We recently spent a fascinating hour with James Gosling, godfather of Java and an eloquent supporter of open standards and common sense when it comes to mobile application development. James points out that NTT DoCoMo has let anyone drop software into the network and get paid. But North American carriers don’t appear to have taken the hint. “[They] have this attitude that their networks need to be closed. Personally, I don’t buy it. They’re being very, very short-sighted.” Mobile business developers and service planners everywhere: Don’t miss this one. [See Part-2 here]
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
In Part I of a two-part series, Gosling touches on how Japan has influenced Java, how Japan’s terminals, while “astonishing,” have been less influential than the business models adopted by NTT DoCoMo, and how Japan mobile application expertise can emerge overseas.
Gosling points out that popular (if somewhat goofy) cultural-specific Japanese content — like Hello Kitty — has actually become remarkably popular in the US. Remember the Pokemon craze? This, perhaps, bodes well for the export of Japanese mobile content. In particular, this points to the expertise that Japanese developers have already gained — an expertise that mobile content, application, and services industries elsewhere have yet to fully develop. “Japanese software companies have a leg up,” he says, which will help them address “other markets of several hundred million people.”
Further, Gosling admits that Java’s lack of unity — different network owners have deployed differing, incompatible flavors of Java — is just plain “annoying” and that business arguments for this approach make “little sense.” Larger markets, he says, are more robust — and developers can afford to make a lot more interesting software when market size merits the expenditure. Sun has some “small whips” to try and push compliance, but the most powerful force is probably “the developers and the customers.”
“Japanese [mobile] software companies have a leg up,” which will help them address “other markets of several hundred million people.”
Ironically, the success of “i-Appli” — NTT DoCoMo’s proprietary Java implementation — helps to prove Gosling’s point, if only because domestically DoCoMo is the largest fish in a rather large pond. By making its Java platform everyone’s Java platform (if you want to access some 15 million paying customers, that is), DoCoMo has created a huge Java ecosystem that generates a massive amount of fun, useful, and productive mobile software.
But elsewhere, it’s rare to find a market with a similar single massively dominating player, so absent the market force of a DoCoMo, it would be better for carriers outside Japan to cooperate and create Java systems that are compatible. Maybe overseas players need a little of Japan’s famous Wa?