Viewpoint: What Leads Mobile in Japan?

Holographic projection demo at DoCoMo R&D Labs, November 2006 ©MobikyoThe genesis of today’s Viewpoint was back in March, when we spotted this op-ed referring to Japan mobile that had stated: “What’s different about the Japanese mobile market is that innovation is moving toward business models and marketing tactics instead of technical features and functions.” That op-ed piece in turn cited a new research report on eMarketer, “Japan: Marketing to a Mobile Society,” which insisted: “What stands out in the current Japanese experience is the fact that the center of gravity for getting through to Japanese mobile users has shifted in favor of business models and marketing tactics as opposed to new technical features and mobile phone functions.”

We took exception to both these as serious mis-analyses of the cornerstone role that technological innovation and network infrastructure competition have played – and continue to play – in powering Japan’s mobile success story. After contact with the eMarketer editors, we agreed to write separate opinion pieces, which we would both republish side-by-side in our newsletters, as an excellent way to hash out the topic and let you – our collective readers – decide.

Sadly, the marketing guys at eMarketer quashed the idea, as the subject and the detailed discussion would be “too technical a topic for our [eMarketer’s] newsletter.” But we know that WWJ readers are more than smart enough to figure out for themselves what’s really driving the mobile Internet in Japan! So we wished the eMarketer editors best of luck in the future, again gave thanks that WWJ doesn’t have any meddling marketing guys, and herewith present to you our Viewpoint.
(Subscribers login to access the full article by WWJ editor Daniel Scuka)

Image: Holographic projection demo at NTT DoCoMo R&D Labs, November 2006 ©Mobikyo

Japan Mobile TV in the News

TV Bank, a division of the SoftBank Group, has announced a new contents service, Yahoo! Animation, in addition to the Yahoo! Streaming channel which was introduced at the end of May. A so-called digest version of official baseball games, offered free of charge via the operators Yahoo! mobile portal, will include games from Japanese major league baseball teams including; the Chiba Lotte Marines, Tohoku Golden Eagles, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters along with the company-owned Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. The service sounds very much like the product offered by Tokyo-based Craftmax as described in our video interview conducted back in spring 2005.

Verizon Announces Wireless Wallet

Verizon Wireless has announced their m-commerce service, enabled as a BREW application from technology partner Obopay as the first mobile payment offering for any major U.S. carrier, will be available in the coming weeks. The Obopay service will allow customers to receive, send and spend money via their mobile phones, check their account balances, collect money owed from other mobile users, view transaction histories and invite friends to use the system.

Mobile Monday Tokyo Demo Night Video

A Totally Vivid User Interface - Video DemoThe recent MoMo Tokyo event, held 23 April at KDDI’s Designing Studio, featured a mobile mash-up of presentations in the super-cool Demo Night format – which has been popular in other chapter cities. For Demo Night, a line-up of interesting mobile companies were allowed a 5- to 7-minute show & tell session for their mobile content or service offering – displayed on an actual handset and projected on the big screen for all to see. We’ve posted video of all six presentations for those of you who were unable to attend in person.

Tracey Northcott, VP at Enfour Group demonstrated Camera Jiten a native Brew dictionary application for instant scanning of English words giving their Japanese translations. Mandali Khalesi, CEO of Naviblog, showed-off how to find the closest Guinness with your mobile phone. David Collier, founder and CEO of Pikkle, demonstrated a new type of full-screen mobile flash service they provide to enable rich social networking. Nobuyoshi Noda, Mobile Division Deputy GM of Adways, gave an overview of the Mobile Affiliate Advertisement Smart-C product. Tim Smith, Director of Freeverse Consulting, introduced Malibu IVP, a middleware approach to creating useful and viable 3G videocall applications and Hiroshi Oda, VP Corporate Communications from CIAJ, announced that CEATEC JAPAN 2007 will launch a new special exhibit area under the theme of Digital Contents for their annual trade-show in October.

KDDI Hits BREW Milestone

QUALCOMM just announced a number of milestones underscoring how KDDI’s wireless data service, powered by BREW, continues to spur the demand for mobile applications in the Japanese market. In January 2007, KDDI subscribers downloaded more than seven million BREW applications to their mobile phones. The cumulative number of BREW application downloads is now more than 160 million since KDDI first launched BREW in February 2003. Gaming has proven to be one of the most active areas of mobile downloads. According to KDDI, its catalog of high-quality mobile games has grown from 2,000 applications in January 2006 to more than 3,000 gaming applications in January 2007.

Namco and KDDI Partner for Mobile Games

Namco Networks has announced an exclusive partnership with KDDI to represent the carriers large catalog of mobile games from Japanese publishers and developers in North American. Running on Qualcomms BREW technology, KDDI has a mobile games catalog which includes a wide range of puzzle, action and strategy games. Financial details of the venture were not included with the statement.

KDDI Unveils 10 New 3G Cellphones for Spring 2007

 KDDI Unveils 10 New 3G Cellphones for Spring 2007 by Mobikyo KK

KDDI announced their spring 2007 handset line-up this week with ten new 3G models focused on form and function. The latest addition to their Au Design Project, the Media Skin concept by Tokujin Yoshioka, was introduced along with this announcement that it will go on display with earlier offerings – the Infobar, Talby and Neon – at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The other models on deck are coming from Toshiba (W51T and W52T), Casio (W51CA), Sanyo (W51SA), Kyocera (W51K), Hitachi (W51H), Sony Ericsson (W51S), the second-ever model from Sharp (W51SH) – a popular design originally introduced by Vodafone in spring 2006 (and also recently available from DoCoMo) – plus a first-time offer by top-tier maker Panasonic (W51P).

The W52T, a candybar slider with a wide VGA 480×800 resolution 3-inch screen, a 3.2-megapixel camera and 1GB of on-board memory [.jpg image] stood out as quite impressive during our quick test drive. An immediate and interesting observation is that eight of the ten handsets are 1 Seg digital-TV enabled, which should clearly signal (pardon the pun) that KDDI is bullish on broadcast TV content and services. Otherwise, most have the FeliCa mobile wallet function and the usual goodies such as GPS, PC Site Viewer, Hello Messenger and – of course – all units are running on BREW and come with the EZ suite of mobile content (books, games, auctions etc.) and are LISMO music ready.

The carriers and handset makers are pumping full blast with mobile number portability pushing everyone to improve and deliver better product offering. DoCoMo also announced ten new phones this week while SoftBank is expected to introduce their line-up soon as well. March is traditionally the busiest handset replacement month of the year in Japan, as the new academic and fiscal year begins April 1st; we’ll be looking forward to the official TCA subscriber results.

 KDDI Unveils 10 New 3G Cellphones for Spring 2007 by Mobikyo KK

Video Round-up: Ultra-cool Mobile Tech at Tokyo's CEATEC 2006

Video Round-up: Ultra-cool Mobile Tech at Tokyo’s CEATEC 2006Last week, Tokyo’s annual CEATEC show (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) was once again a showcase for some of the coolest mobile technology on Planet Earth. Today’s video round-up features audio QR, Fujitsu’s ‘UB Wall‘ – an ultra-high-tech, one-to-one customized video advertising display – and FP codes, and – not to be missed – NTT DoCoMo’s 3G mobile-based ‘Drunk Driver’ detector, apparently in high demand by bus companies and trucking firms.

Organizers said that the consumer electronics event drew 550,732 during the public days, 4-7 October, while WWJ ducked in out of the torrential rain during the press & industry day on 3 October, when the crowds weren’t quite as waku (wild).

WWJ thinks the FP codes (essentially, invisible barcodes) and audio QR technology stands a pretty good chance of fast adoption, given the masses of rabid advertising agencies out there trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of (a) camera phones that grab info via QR code and (b) digital broadcasting. An audio QR code is simply broadcast as metadata in a digital audio signal, such that the browser displays text, a clickable URL or other advertising message while you listen to a radio or tv program on a suitably enabled mobile phone. But for sheer outdoor-advertising-meets-mobile marketing genius, the UB Wall can’t be beat!