DoCoMo Mobile Credit: Everything You Know About 3G is Useless

DoCoMo Mobile Credit: Everything You Know About 3G is Useless by Mobikyo KKWWJ has spotted the first presence of NTT DoCoMo’s ‘DCMX’ mobile credit (card) service on the streets of Tokyo and, once again, the future has arrived. Lawrence Cosh-Ishii, WWJ’s director of digital media, en route to a central Tokyo video shoot a few days ago, spied the first street-level advert for retail goods payable via DCMX (image at right).

Predictably, the pitch came from Girl’s Walker, Xavel’s icon of community-centric, user-recommended mobile shopping, which earned the company Pharaonic riches long before dusty old ‘blogs’ were ever invented. Girl’s Walker is touting a special fall line of fashionable goods that can be paid for via “DoCoMo credit,” which takes the form of a real credit payment for adults, or the purchase cost is added to the monthly phone bill, for cash-flush, under-age teens. Note no reference to any sort of ‘card’ – the service is the phone, and credit ‘cards’ are oh-so-1970s.

DCMX is shaping up to be the main pillar in DoCoMo’s consumer financial services strategy that will lock in mobilers and secure massive revenues long after 3G – and the mere delivery of mobile digital content – has become a low-margin sideline that markets elsewhere still can’t comprehend. DCMX isn’t merely the the ‘Next Big Thing’ – it’s everything; and it’s going to make 3G itself redundant (WWJ subscribers log in for full viewpoint and details on the DCMX mobile credit service).

KDDI Launches New Handsets and 3G Services

KDDI - 12 New Handsets with Massive 3G Services LaunchKDDI today launched the first strike in Japan’s mobile number portability wars with no less than 10 press releases announced today at Tokyo’s ultra buttoned-down Imperial Hotel. The line-up of phones and services includes new units from Casio (W43CA), Hitachi (W43H), Kyocera (W43K and W44K), Sanyo (W42SA, W43SA and A5522SA), Sharp (W41SH), Sony Ericsson (W43S) and Toshiba (W45T and W47T), plus a new in-house designer model (also by Toshiba) code named Drape.

The accompanying new data offerings unveiled today include a scrolling news service (ala i-channel) and mobile video conferencing, the first such service from KDDI (which, until now, has philosophically posited that video conferencing was not suited for mobile), as well as several improved mobile music and digital TV offerings.

Mobile Entertainment Forum Presentations on Video

Mobile Entertainment Forum Presentations on VideoNaviblog Corp., which showcased their local search and location-based information sharing technology at Mobile Monday Tokyo in May, gave a very entertaining presentation at the Mobile Entertainment Forum, part of the recent Wireless Japan 2006 trade show. In the presentation, Naviblog CEO & President Mandali Khalesi explained their browser-based approach to mobile products in more detail.

Naviblog is a finalist for this year’s Red Herring Asia 100, an award program recognizing the most promising and innovative private technology companies with high growth potential in Asia.

We also have clip of the opening remarks from Qualcomm’s Ted Matsumoto, one of Japan’s and Asia’s most knowledgeable mobile thinkers!

Japan 3G Beats the Hype – Lessons for European Cellcos

Japan 3G Beats the Hype - Lessons for European CellcosThe International Herald Tribune ran a couple of gloomy 3G-related articles last week (see “3G cost billions: Will it ever live up to its hype?” and “Operators in Asia learn from mistakes”). It’s the height of the summer vacation slow-news cycle, and maybe the IHT was just fishing for some headline attention, but we couldn’t let these egregiously faulty items pass without comment.

3G cost billions: Will it ever live up to its hype?

European mobile phone companies spent $129 billion six years ago to buy licenses for third-generation (3G) networks, which were supposed to give people the freedom to virtually live from their cell phones, reading email, browsing the Internet, placing video calls, enjoying music and movies, buying products and services, making reservations, monitoring health — all from the beach, the bus, the dentist’s waiting room or wherever they were.

But today, most people use their cell phones just as they did in 2000 — to make calls — and the modest gains 3G has made do not begin to justify the massive costs of the technology, which has strapped some mobile operators financially, bankrupted entrepreneurs, spurred multibillion-euro lawsuits against governments and phone companies, and sapped research spending.

Over the long term, 3G runs the risk of becoming the Edsel of the mobile phone industry — an expensive, unwanted albatross rejected by consumers and bypassed by other, less costly technologies, some experts say.

These articles are worse than merely wrong: they help fuel the flawed thinking and misguided strategies to which 3G license holders are addicted (helping cause the continued malaise). So widespread user apathy and risible revenues must prove that 3G’s a loser, right? Wrong. And to see why, you need look no further than Japan. Why have 3G carriers elsewhere in the world not realised: you don’t have to be DoCoMo to succeed like DoCoMo does.

WWJ paid subscribers: Log in for our 10-point rebuttal to the first IHT article (‘3G Hype’). Note: it’s a little long, so best to print out and read poolside!

DoCoMo's Blackberry: Q&A with Research in Motion Japan

DoCoMo's Blackberry: Q&A with Research in Motion JapanThe pending Japan arrival of Research in Motion (RIM)’s hyperpopular BlackBerry email device, widely known as the ‘CrackBerry’ for its simple, efficient and addictive delivery of corporate email, will inject a new dimension into this country’s complex device and service matrix.
A wise move or a sign of desperation? These two viewpoints seem to characterize media, pundits’ and bloggers’ responses to last month’s announcement that DoCoMo would bring the BlackBerry email device into Japan, in partnership with RIM, based in Canada. Our own take on it was: Who Cares? WWJ was mindful that “virtually everyone in Japan’s workforce already has an always-on, fully connected email device right in their back pocket — in other words, a phone!”

Furthermore, before and since then, there has been more news, helping make it even more difficult to assess the BlackBerry’s prospects.

According to the pundits, NTT DoCoMo’s decision to import the BlackBerry is either (a) a master stroke aimed at securing the giant carrier’s corporate mobile offerings as 3G competition heats up in 2006/07, or (b) expensive folly that will see enterprise sales teams saddled with a clunky, ‘not-made-here’ device that competes poorly if at all against universal 3G phones that already receive push mail in real time, thank you very much (and some media reports have stated the first Japan BlackBerrys won’t even accept Japanese text input). The truth, however, is probably somewhere between these extremes, and so WWJ went straight to the source.

Motorola Razr, Designer Phones in DoCoMo 3G Summer 7-Series

Motorola Razr, Designer Phones in DoCoMo 3G Summer 7-SeriesDoCoMo today announced six summer 3G handsets, including ‘7-Series’ models from US maker Motorola, Sharp, NEC, Panasonic and Mitsubishi. The Japan-made models include three ‘designer’ phones, with ultracool shapes and colours conceived by noted Japanese design personalities, while Motorola joins the show with their M702iS and M702iG — the latter evidently based on the newest version of the widely popular ‘RAZR’ series, the Razr V3X.

The company unveiled the phones at a flashy press event held at the Harajuku Quest event space in central Tokyo. The three designer models, from Mitsubishi, Panasonic and NEC, offer a range of trendy colors including ‘lilac mirage’ and ’round coral’, and feature square, oval and bevel shapes based on the clam-shell form factor. DoCoMo’s choice of outside designers to create custom models is neither the first for the carrier nor for Japan and continues a popular (and lucrative) trend long developed by KDDI and Vodafone.

All phones unveiled today include, in varying mixes, the carrier’s stripped-down ‘3G-lite’ voice and data services, including roaming, ‘Chaku-moji’ (which lets the caller enter a short message that will appear on the receiver’s phone as it rings), network phonebook backup, network lock-out of a lost phone, Deco-mail (HTML mail), i-Channel and music playback. But while the carrier presented the phones as the unified ‘7-Series’, there are significant differences between the domestic and US models. The Motorolas fail to provide all of the signature lite FOMA services (lost phone lockout, PushTalk, removable memory) but they do roam, while the Japanese models don’t roam.

DoCoMo Brings Blackberry to Japan. Who Cares?

DoCoMo Brings Blackberry to Japan. Who Cares?Last Thursday, NTT DoCoMo announced they would deploy the super-popular BlackBerry email device, made by Canadian firm Research in Motion (RIM), in Japan, in autumn 2006. At first glance, the news is pretty interesting.

One media report stated that “RIM stands to make potentially more money per customer with the DoCoMo deal by marketing its BlackBerrys in addition to its service.” Until recently, Japan lacked a decent, usable email device targeting corporate users.

Willcom has been offering Sharp’s super-cool Zero3, a Windows mobile OS device that has been flying off the shelves since the end of 2005, but it’s a consumer/prosumer device that is sold direct to the street and its POP/SMTP email capability doesn’t integrate (easily) into a corporate server.

[The full text of this article is available, for free, as an exclusive column contributed to the Wireless-Watch Community. — Eds]

Gaming Set to Repeat Mobile Music Success

Mobile Music Hot but Mobile Games will Blaze! by Mobikyo KKAs mobile music settles into a steady mainstream growth cycle, with now-well-established hardware and content offerings, many industry watchers are looking towards the Next Big Thing. We think they need look no further than portable gaming, which is set to take mobile by storm. All the ingredients for mobile gaming success are in place: key platforms, faster 3G networks, affordable and flat-rate data, and a keen, heavy using youth demographic that continues to display a never-ending quest for hardware upgrades. Take a look around the streets of Tokyo, and the conclusion is unmissable: gaming for mobile devices is set for impressive growth in the next few years.

To date, the limiting factor has been the actual devices, as it was at one stage with music. The Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, much like Apple’s iPod, have proven to be early major hits as stand-alone units, having sufficient onboard CPU and memory capabilities to run some intensive games. In view of the success of porting the well-known ‘Walkman‘ onto mobile phones, can it be that long before we see the PSP label on a prototype cell phone from Sony Ericsson?

The photo tells it all. Taken recently by WWJ digital media director Lawrence Cosh-Ishii in suburban Tokyo, it shows a group of mid-teen boys waiting for a train at Shimo-Kitazawa station; all are playing with a PSP, blissfully ignorant of the huge poster for KDDI/au’s new music campaign. Note also that the recent BREW 2006 Conference issued a release with the news that Qualcomm and Microsoft will port MS ‘Live Anywhere’ for X-Box 360 gaming onto BREW-enabled mobile handsets. If you don’t think these tech giants have got it right, just watch what the kids are doing!

Softbank/Vodafone Tie-up & Is the Best-of-Breed 905SH Good Enough?

905SH: Will Best of Breed be Enough?

The historic SoftBank / Vodafone press conference, held 18 May at Tokyo’s swanky Conrad Hilton, generated a flood of information and even more questions. Not much seems certain after Softbank’s Masayoshi Son and Vodafone’s Arun Sarin dropped the announcement of a never-before-tried plan for UK carrier Vodafone PLC to cooperate with Japanese Internet services company Softbank in a 50-50 joint venture aimed at developing mobile phones, services and content (mostly for Japan). On one level, the move is a straightforward play to enable Vodafone to keep at least some connection to Japan’s cutting-edge market and extract expertise, content, devices and business models (everything the old Vodafone KK was supposed to do). But looking deeper, the devil is readily apparent in the details: Who pays for what? To whom does value flow? Will VF be willing to implement strategy and devices from Japan via Son that they weren’t via their own wholly owned subsidiary? And what’s in it for Softbank — What could they possibly need from The Rest of the World?

As the humidity settles in for another long, torrid Tokyo summer, a ‘wait-and-see’ response is the most generous recommendation WWJ can make; however we can point to one bright spot: the new flagship handset, the 905SH. Available on 27 May, the phone is probably the best piece of mobile gear available on the Tokyo street this season. But will it be enough to stem the inevitable tide of subscribers from the company formerly known as Vodafone to Softbank competitors? Probably not. (Subscribers log in for more commentary on the rebranding, the new VF-Softbank joint venture and other Japan mobile highlights.)

DoCoMo Quadruple Play Includes Windows DRM, HSDPA, 7 New Credit-Card Phones

F902iSIn a rare quadruple play, DoCoMo today issued three new handset announcements plus one new technology tie-up press release. The first handset news includes the long-expected new credit-card-enabled phones that will come bundled with the carrier’s ‘DCMX’ Java-and-IC-chip-based credit card. The new 902iS series FOMA 3G handsets mark the latest step in DoCoMo’s transformation from Just Another Mobile Phone Company to full-featured financial services provider.

The carrier also said it had agreed with Microsoft to incorporate Windows Media technologies in DoCoMo’s F902iS 3G handset, to be released this summer. The first-time collaboration means that the F902iS will support both Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10 for Portable Devices (WMDRM-PD). The carrier will also evaluate the incorporation of Windows Media Video, Microsoft’s version of SMPTE VC-1 technologies, in future handsets. The press release states that incorporating Windows Media technologies will enable NTT DoCoMo handsets to play music downloaded to a PC from more than 100 online music services around the world, and also support music content ripped from CDs in the highly efficient Windows Media Audio format (login for details).