Global Lessons from Mobile Computing in Japan II
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. [See Part-1 here]
Comments from Wireless Watch Japan Editor-in-Chief Daniel Scuka:
Gosling says it’s often hard to describe new mobile application-based services to people — he compares it to user reaction to the (recent) TiVo settop boxes. “Everyone I know who has one is madly in love with [it]. Yet, try to explain it to someone who doesn’t have one and they’re reaction is ‘Huh??'” Similarly, “Of the non-geek people I know who have GPS [car] systems — they love them!” Gosling’s point is that people don’t really get the implications of how new technology, like Japan’s mobile Java services, can change everyday life until they try them.
His comments go right to the heart of Japan’s unwired revolution and are as clear a statement as any we’ve heard on why what happens here is significant. Japan is one of the first mass markets anywhere (Korea is another) to deploy Web- and Java-based mobile content, applications, and services on a large scale — and so serves as the world’s test bed for what works. And while we’ve always agreed that structural and cultural factors make this wireless market unlike any other, we have also argued that once you control for those differences, the fundamental, underlying success factors extant in Japan can be applied anywhere.
It’s like a grocery store — what is the one product that you can sell in a grocery store that will make everyone happy? There’s no such thing as a ‘killer app’ for a grocery store — some people like tomatoes, some people like cucumbers.
Gosling also mentions that one of the peculiarities of Japan’s mobile economy is that many providers are looking for the “killer app” — the one thing that a lot of people will really, really want to use. He believes, however, that this is somewhat akin to tilting at windmills, and that “while there are a few things that a lot of people will want, there are also niche markets. It’s like a grocery store — what is the one product that you can sell in a grocery store that will make everyone happy? There’s no such thing as a ‘killer app’ for a grocery store — some people like tomatoes, some people like cucumbers.”
Japan’s wireless ecosystem offers a “tremendous diversity” in the applications and services that are offered, and it’s this complexity — this richness of diversity — that is unequalled anywhere and that forms the core of why the network is so overwhelmingly successful.