DoCoMo Buys into FamilyMart

DoCoMo has just announced that they will form a strategic alliance, through a capital tie-up, with the FamilyMart convenience retail chain. DoCoMo will acquire 2,930,500 common shares owned by FamilyMart — approx. 3% of total issued shares — for about 9 billion yen (usd $74 Million) on June 13, 2007. From July 10, FamilyMart stores will begin accepting m-commerce payments via the DoCoMo iD platform which is currently accepted in only about 140 of nearly 7,000 locations nationwide.

KDDI Announces 15 New Handsets

Mark May 22 on your calendar under Tokyo mobile madness. In the space of a few hours we had an avalanche of new handset models – 27 in all – announced by both KDDI au and (see our previous post) SoftBank Mobile. The Okura hotel was swarming at 10am as the wraps came off au’s Summer 2007 lineup and of course they have their usual dedicated, and slick, Flash site online Here. It will take us a little while to plow through the complete details of each model, available in Japanese, meanwhile we have compiled a quick overview for you after the jump.

DoCoMo 2.0 — Message Lost in Translation?

DoCoMo 2.0 -- Message Lost in Translation? by Mobikyo KKOn Monday 23 April NTT DoCoMo unveiled their latest 3G handsets, the 904i-series, at a press conference held here in downtown Tokyo.

WWJ pointed to this webcast of their presentation, which clearly stated from the very beginning the new “DoCoMo 2.0” campaign theme.

We shouldn’t really be surprised that the main message, from Japan’s dominant mobile operator, contained in the announcement somehow managed to get 2.0 attention from the mainstream media. With few exceptions, the entire tech web focused on the motion-sensor for gaming application. Few if any noted how ironic it was that while the company insisted it was going to “focus on offering unique applications and services that will be difficult for the competition to duplicate” they were in fact introducing a functionality which was originally made available in Japan [video here] by Vodafone and Sharp over two years ago.

Perhaps the gritty details — such as the fact that all five new models will (of course) ship pre-installed with the Osaifu-Keitai FeliCa mobile wallet together with related security services — are less appealing to the overseas media than Nokia’s recent announcement that they, too, have the mobile wallet urge?

To be sure, there were a few interesting new offerings in Natsuno-san’s presentation, such as the 2-in-1 dual-identity option and flat-rate access to Napster’s full music library service. However, one of the main observations we take away from this news is that the rest of the world still tends to focus only on the most quirky headlines (wait until the MSM find out about this one). WWJ subscribers login for our thoughts on this latest development.

Is Mobile 2.0 Really Just Hype?

Paul Golding at Wireless Wanders posted an interesting op-ed about the hype surrounding mobile 2.0. While it’s clear that he’s looking at this from a Euro/US perspective – especially on the device side – however, we have no doubt there are some valid points contained therein. At the same time it should be also noted that Impress R&D (div. of the major Tokyo-based publisher) released a book last summer called Mobile 2.0 [in Japanese] which would likely shed a little more light on what is actually possible, at least in Japan.

A Tale of Two Mobile Technologies

The recent round of international press devoted to ‘the next big thing for mobile’ has an interesting, and recurring, theme. It started with a fair amount of mainstream media attention devoted to the statements made at CTIA during Visa’s keynote address regarding the evolution of mobile payments. Around the same time we notice that Capt. Kirk went boldly where no ex-pat Canadian would dare go (Toronto in March) to attend this presser with Ted Rogers promoting a new fangled mobile web-cam handset, which the company breathlessly hailed as “a landmark in wireless communications”.

We also noticed this special op-ed from Card Technology about how Sony is potentially challenged to get their m-commerce product outside of Japan. The article did some great work, however there’s plenty of room for a counter-point discussion. One thing rings true, both of these technologies were deployed here in Japan years ago and like the camera-phone will begin making their way into markets overseas in due course.

CTIA: Ready for Japan?

The annual CTIA event is underway – like spring break for telco geeks – this week in Orlando and the PR is flowing. While there is predictable hype surrounding mobile tv and m-commerce, it’s satisfying to see that indeed the industry over-seas is beginning to embrace the functions and services we have seen developed and deployed here in Japan over the last few years. Now of the course the trick is, after the chatter, what happens next. As they say “the devil’s in the details” so time will tell, but it really does seem that things are warming up under the Florida sun!

Japan: The Future of Mobile Markets

Japan: The Future of Mobile Markets by Mobikyo KKAccording to an article on eMarketer, “What stands out in the Japanese mobile market is the fact that innovation is shifting toward business models and marketing tactics as opposed to technical features and functions … the explosion of non-official mobile content Web sites is causing the sun to set on the i-mode business model of a dominant mobile carrier selling incremental content and services to its user base,” says John du Pre Gauntt, eMarketer senior analyst.

There are several ‘gee-whiz’ statements in this summary, starting with “Marketers are looking to the Japanese mobile market as a model of the converged media future,” which are clearly designed to help sell their research report. However, we really must challenge outright some of the assurances offered. For example, the eMarketer quote above which states that “Innovation is shifting toward business models and marketing tactics as opposed to technical features and functions” is off-base on both counts.

The continued innovations from DoCoMo and the other carriers in network speed, handset design and content & service offerings speak volumes about the Japanese mobile market and the continued utterly fundamental role of the carrier in driving innovation. Granted, the increase in non-official content sites was obvious and predictable, given how easy the continuing carrier-led innovations make getting onto the mobile web for both providers and surfers. And the carriers have known this from Day 1 of i-mode.

Year of the Pig Shaping up as Golden

What’s this?? … mobs of Flying Ketai Pigs..?

Actually, 2007 promises to be far more interesting than even that cheeky title! Here goes our official WWJ Fearless Forecast for 2007 – all in one – huge – breath!

2007 promises to be far more interesting than even that cheeky title! Here goes our official WWJ Fearless Forecast for 2007 – all in one – huge – breath! M-commerce: The carriers? FeliCa-based services will continue to grab serious market share. At the end of 2006, DoCoMo had over 1 mln customers for their DCMX mobile credit-card service alone, not to mention the 18.3 mn regular FeliCa handsets in use as of 31 December. KDDI and SoftBank have FeliCa user bases in the millions as well.. grab a cuppa for after the jump!

SoftBank Mobile Announces New 3G Phones

SoftBank Mobile Announces New 3G Phones by Mobikyo KKSoftBank Mobile rounded out the Japanese operators spring handset announcement rush this week by announcing a new fleet of models – Flash site Here – with major bling factor. According to the companies announcement most models will be available by March which is traditionally the busiest handset replacement month of the year in Japan as the new academic and fiscal year begins on April 1st. Masayoshi Son did his best Steve Jobs impersonation, black turtle-neck and all, however there was no announcement related to the recent news from MacWorld.

Models of interest include the 911T by Toshiba, a candybar slider with a huge 3-inch screen running on high speed HSDPA has a 3.2-megapixel camera, 1GB of internal memory, 1Seg digital tv, it’s FeliCa m-commerce enabled and comes complete with a pair of Oakley Thumps which connect via bluetooth. Other new handset highlights include; the 812SH Pantone series by Sharp (pictured right) with 20 different colors to choose from, the 812T Kodomobile model designed especially for children and Nokia’s E-61 Communicator – labeled as X01NK – which has Japanese Kanji text input and comes Wi-Fi enabled.

There are three new phones from Samsung including the 708SC slider which claims the title for the worlds thinnest 3G handset at a mere 8.4mm thick and the 707SC Swarovski Crystal version which is a follow-up to the earlier 705SH model [.jpg image] which sold-out the day it was launched last fall.

There have been over 30 new handset models announced by the three main operators during the last week for content and application developers, industry wags and ultimately the marketplace at large to chew over.. whew! WWJ subscribers login for more comments, photos and a video-link to watch the actual presentation (70 minute runtime) from the press conference held in Shinagawa on Thursday.

PS3 Update Includes FeliCa

Sony Computer Entertainment Japan announced [in Japanese] a PS3 firmware update will be available from 24 January in Japan only. The new 1.50 version includes support for FeliCa, the companies m-commerce system. Customers with a USB connected PaSoRi reader will be able to use their osaifu ketai or traditional EDY card to buy games over the Playstation Network.