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

Media-FLO Info for Japan

Qualcomm quietly opened MediaFLO-info.com on 1 August as part of the companies march to launch their mobile tv broadcast services in Japan. The Japanese only version includes overview materials, links to the FloForum and Mobile Media Planning Corp., which is wholly-owned by SoftBank, along with a sign-up form for their mail magazine. No official press release announcing the new site could be found, in English or Japanese, at the time of this posting.

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.

MediaFLO Conference in Tokyo

Qualcomm has announced that it will host the first-ever MediaFLO Conference in Tokyo to provide the latest information about their mobile broadcast solution. The event will take place on Friday, June 8 at 14:00 at the Hotel Okura with Omar Javaid, vice president, business development, Qualcomm MediaFLO Technologies, providing a global market status presentation. WWJ interviewed Ali Zamari, international business development manager for MediaFLO, at the Wireless Japan tradeshow last year.

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.

KDDI to Launch U.S. Operations

This article by the Asahi Shimbun, stating that KDDI will launch services on Sprint Nextels network, has created alot of buzz across the web in the last 24hrs. According to that story the company “… has obtained a business license to serve as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in 49 of the 50 U.S. states”. While of course it makes perfect sense to us for KDDI to consider how they might port the lessons learned here into other developing markets, the details provided from this original source raised more questions than they answered. The Asahi quotes un-named officials, no announcement appears on either of the carriers websites, saying that “KDDI Mobile” will begin offering full-scale services in the U.S. by mid-April.

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's Sold 2 Million Digital TV Phones

If you stop somebody at the streets of Tokyo who is watching digital broadcasting TV on his mobile handset and ask who is his carrier provider, chances are high the answer will be KDDI au. Having started selling its first one-seg model — the Sanyo W33SA (discontinued) — in December 2005, KDDI au expanded its one-seg portfolio to 12 models, resulting in two million units sold as of February 23, 2007. According to GfK Japan, (as quoted in this KDDI press release — Eds) au group has sold more one-seg compatible handsets than its rivals, grabbing 59.96% of the total market share. WWJ has video demo. with one of KDDI’s early 1Seg. enabled models running Here.