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Galapagos effect Mobile

Mobile internet coming of age: i-Mode’s 18th birthday

The global mobile internet was born today 18 years ago, on February 22, 1999

by Gerhard Fasol

NTT Docomo announced the start of i-Mode on February 22, 1999 at a press conference in Tokyo

Today, 18 years ago, on February 22, 1999, Mari Matsunaga, Takeshi Natsuno, and Keiichi Enoki announced the start of the world’s first successful mobile internet service to a small number of people who made it to NTT Docomo’s press conference in Tokyo.

For many years, Japan was the global hotspot for mobile internet, mobile broadband, fixed net broadband (FTTH), there is a very long list of inventions, innovation, new services and products which were successfully brought to market in Japan, and in some cases it took 10 years or longer for these same services to succeed elsewhere in the world.

Examples of services and products which saw their invention, or first successful global mass market introduction in Japan include:

Inventing the mobile internet vs capturing global value

Undoubtedly the biggest success story emerging from Japan’s pioneering mobile internet days is SoftBank

After Vodafone acquired a controlling stake in Japan Telecom, it took Vodafone at least one year to realize that instead of a far east backwater waiting for Vodafone, Japan’s mobile market was actually years ahead of Europe at that time. By the time Vodafone realized that instead of sailing into an easy market, they had actually entered the world’s most ferociously competitive market, it was too late, Vodafone sold its Japan operations to SoftBank, which turned out the failing Vodafone-Japan within a few months of intense efforts. SoftBank’s acquisition of Vodafone-Japan and the successful turn-round became the basis for SoftBank to implement Masayoshi Son’s plan to create one of the world’s most important companies.

Other Japanese success stories resulting from pioneering the mobile internet

Japan has created one of the most vibrant smart phone games eco-system, with a large number of smart phone game companies growing, many listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Beyond games, Japan has created a vibrant sector of internet and mobile ventures, founded in the wave of Japan’s mobile internet and FTTH broadband adoption. However, because of Japan’s well known Galapagos syndrome, few have made it into global success stories yet. However, its not too late.

eMoji made it into MoMa, and the iPhone.

QR codes are all over China, however not monetized by Denso Wave, the Toyota family company which invented QR codes for automotive parts management.

Read up on Japan’s mobile and telecom sector

Copyright (c) 2017 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
disruption Galapagos effect Internet Mobile

Mobile internet’s 17th birthday

The global mobile internet revolution started with Docomo’s i-Mode on February 22, 1999

i-Mode, Happy Birthday!

i-mode menu NTT docomo
i-mode menu NTT docomo

Today, exactly 17 years ago, on February 22, 1999, NTT-Docomo launched the world’s first mobile internet service, i-Mode, at a press conference attended only by a handful of people.

NTT-Docomo created the foundation of the global mobile internet revolution, and i-Mode is still a cash-cow for Docomo in Japan, but Docomo did not succeed to capture global value.

i-Mode pioneered many business models, which are today monetized by Apple and Google (mainly via Android).

i-Mode also contributed to make Japan the world’s biggest App market in terms of cash revenues, and helped Japanese app companies to be among the world’s largest and top grossing.

Read in detail in our blog:
i-Mode was launched Feb. 22, 1999 in Tokyo – birth of mobile internet

Japan telecommunications industry report

Copyright 2016-2019 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
disruption electronics component makers Mobile mobile payment

i-Mode was launched February 22, 1999 in Tokyo – birth of mobile internet

The mobile internet was born 16 years ago in Japan

Galapagos-Syndrome: NTT Docomo failed to capture global value

On February 22, 1999, the mobile internet was born when Mari Matsunaga, Takeshi Natsuno and Keiichi Enoki launched Docomo’s i-Mode to a handful of people who had made the effort to the Press Conference introducing Docomo’s new i-Mode service. KDDI soon followed with EZweb, and J-Phone with Jsky (J-Phone was acquired by Vodafone, which was unable to manage J-Phone, Vodafone then sold the company to SoftBank).

i-Mode’s popularity soon exceeded any expectation: Docomo for some periods had to limit new subscriptions.

With Steve Jobs’ love for Japan, and Apple’s intense supplier relationships with Japan, its not farfetched to see connections between i-Mode and iPhone, in particular the i-Mode ecosystem and Java-based i-Appli’s are forerunners of today’s apps and apps-ecosystems.

At that time there was no Wikipedia, and Docomo had no English-language website at all, so our company Eurotechnology Japan KK’s information was more or less the only English language information openly available about i-Mode. We were bombarded by requests from many major semiconductor firms, telecom operators, investment banks, students and world-famous business schools for our i-Mode report and related business development and strategic work.

Learn about Japan’s telecom markets: read the 65th edition of our report.

Today 5 of the global top-10 top-grossing Apps are Japanese

While Docomo never managed to capture global value from inventing and first introducing the mobile internet, the No. 1 top-grossing company globally, and five of the top-10 globally top-grossing Apps for iOS and Google-Play combined are Japanese (source: App-Annie).

Japan’s app market is the world’s largest in terms of cash revenues

Its also no coincidence that in terms of cash value, Japan’s is the world’s largest app-market for iOS and Google-Play combined, bigger than the US market and the Chinese market in terms of cash value. (source: App-Annie).

App-Annie’s data to our knowledge only cover the iOS and Google-Play app-stores, not the i-Mode and other mobile internet businesses, so Japan’s actual mobile app economy is even larger than App-Annie data show.

Which are the top-grossing apps in Japan?

i-Mode is still alive and kicking – and a big business for Docomo

i-Mode is still today the mobile internet system for Docomo’s traditional flip-phones which are still an important part of the market, and recently made headlines since sales for traditional flip-phones were rising, while smartphone sales were (temporarly?) dropping.

i-Mode (and EZweb for KDDI, and Yahoo-mobile for SoftBank) will still be important business for some time to come in Japan.

Copyright (c) 2015 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile

beeTV – DoCoMo’s new mobile TV

Japan leads mobile phone experimentation

Japan introduces and tests a large range of experimental and innovative mobile services

On May 1, 2009, DoCoMo in cooperation with media firm Avex started the mobile TV beeTV which brings 8 channels including a MOOLOG Channel (MOOLOG = MOOvie-bLOG)

beeTV is an indicator how Mobile TV may impact Japan’s Media Sector.

beeTV is NTT-docomo's test balloon for next generation mobile TV
beeTV is NTT-docomo’s test balloon for next generation mobile TV

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile

NEW YEAR on i-Mode and EZ-web

Both docomo’s i-Mode and KDDI’s EZweb top menu pages display Season Greetings and reflect Japan’s seasonal mood: autumn sports days in schools, skiing in winter, Halloween and New Year.

Here are this year’s New Year greetings for the Year of the boar on i-mode and EZweb which were displayed from January 1, 2007 for a few days during Japan’s New Year vacation:

New Year 2007 on docomo's i-Mode and KDDI's EZweb mobile internet home pages
New Year 2007 on docomo’s i-Mode and KDDI’s EZweb mobile internet home pages

More about Japan’s mobile internet:

Copyright (c) 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile

3G RAZR for DoCoMo and i-Mode

At the Wireless Japan Exhibition, DoCoMo showed two types of Motorola’s RAZR phone for 3G:

  • one RAZR purely for 3G, including i-Mode, for DoCoMo’s FOMA 3G service. This phone has similar dimensions as the standard US version of RAZR (shown on the left hand side of the image below)
  • a second, much thicker version of RAZR for international roaming (shown on the right hand side of the image below), which includes a FOMA/3G/wCDMA/UMTS modem and a GSM modem
Motorola's RAZR for NTT docomo
Motorola’s RAZR for NTT docomo
Motorola's RAZR for NTT docomo's 3G network
Motorola’s RAZR for NTT docomo’s 3G network

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Categories
Mobile

Wireless internet grows by about 0.5 million/month in Japan

Japan’s mobile internet is a growth market with about 0.5 Million new subscriptions/month – Japan’s mobile internet grows by about one Finland per year, and even more in terms of ARPU!

This growth today is shared almost 50%/50% between DoCoMo’s i-Mode and KDDI’s EZweb.

Vodafone’s subscriber numbers on the other hand have been more or less stable around zero growth.

Growth of mobile internet subscriptions for DoCoMo's i-Mode and KDDI's EZweb combined stabilizes at 0.5 million/month, while Jsky stopped growing after acquisition by Vodafone and renaming to Vodafone-Live!
Growth of mobile internet subscriptions for DoCoMo’s i-Mode and KDDI’s EZweb combined stabilizes at 0.5 million/month, while Jsky stopped growing after acquisition by Vodafone and renaming to Vodafone-Live!

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Categories
Mobile

Japan’s mobile subscriber data for March 2005

March is the month when new subscriptions peak in Japan. During March 2005 around one million new subscribers signed up for mobile services in Japan, the net gain (new subscriptions minus cancellations) was 930,500. New subscribers were shared as follows between carriers:

DoCoMo: + 480,200 (+ 51.6%)
KDDI/AU: + 436,100 (+ 46.9%)
WILLCOM: + 33,300 (+ 3.6%)
KDDI/TuKa: – 2,600 (- 0.3%)
Vodafone: -7,400 (-0.8%) (previous counting method: -58,400)
Astel: – 9,100 (- 1.0%)

TOTAL: + 930,500 (100%)

Vodafone announced a new method to calculate numbers. Without this new way of calculating, Vodafone’s loss would have been: -58,400

Net growth (loss) of subscribers per month for Japan's mobile operators - Vodafone drops into the red, losing subscribers despite a new way of counting them
Net growth (loss) of subscribers per month for Japan’s mobile operators – Vodafone drops into the red, losing subscribers despite a new way of counting them

Net growth (loss) of mobile internet subscribers (i-Mode, EZweb and Vodafone Live!): since Vodafone renamed Jsky to Vodafone Live!, its rapidly losing market share
Net growth (loss) of mobile internet subscribers (i-Mode, EZweb and Vodafone Live!): since Vodafone renamed Jsky to Vodafone Live!, its rapidly losing market share

Copyright·©1997-2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Categories
Internet Mobile

Cisco-VP: "In the future Internet business models will come from Japan"

In today’s Wallstreet Journal (Dec 7, 2004), Mike Volpi, Senior VP of CISCO’s routing technology group, is quoted as saying:

“In the past the internet business models, technologies and applications were all coming from the US, but today, through broadband, Japan is about to become the number one country in the area of Internet. In the future, I believe Internet business models will come from Japan.”

More about broadband and internet in Japan in our report: “Japan’s Telecommunication Industry” (pdf-file)

For the full article, see: “Fujitsu, Cisco plan to team up on routers” (Wallstreet Journal, Dec 7, 2004, subscription required)

CISCO announced to open an R&D Center in Japan in the first half of 2005: “Cisco Invests US $12 Million in Japanese R&D Center”.

Read an interview with Mike Volpi here: “Mike Volpi on Why Cisco is Investing in a New R&D Center in Tokyo, Japan”.

Categories
Mobile

Version 8 of the "i-Mode report"

Completed version 8 of the “i-Mode Report” (260 pages, 45 figures, 120 photographs, and 25 tables)

Main changes and additions:

updated most statistics and graphs
added a section on mobile games on i-mode
updated the international section
updated the 3G section
updated the i-mode-FeliCa wallet-phone section
corrected many errors
updated the section on Japan’s telecom landscape: added recent transactions, and updated graphics

Copyright·©1997-2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Categories
ecommerce GPS Leadership Mobile mobile payment QR codes telecommunications

Wireless Japan 2004 exhibition (Tokyo, July 21-23, 2004)

FeliCa mobile payment wallet phones at the centre of attention

by Gerhard Fasol

Wireless, mobile phone industry trends years before they reach outside Japan

Every year the Wireless Japan sets global trends in wireless communications and mobile phones. Mobile phone industry professionals cannot afford to miss this trend setting show. It is here that Japanese carriers and handset makers introduce their latest products and show design studies and concept phones which set industry trends for the next months and years.

There were some surprises: In recent Wireless-Japan shows usually the KDDI/AU-design project prototypes were at the center of attention – this year I could not find any. For example, at Wireless-Japan-2002, KDDI/AU showed “Infobar” prototypes a full 16 months before market introduction. Did KDDI/AU decide to keep future design-project releases secret until they hit the market? Could well be so, given Japan’s increasingly ferocious mobile phone competition. Another surprise was Vodafone’s absence – Vodafone in recent years used to have the biggest show.

On the other hand this time most handset makers showed impressive concept phones, Matsushita/Panasonic under the heading “Beyond 3G”. The image shows NEC’s concept design study of a flexible multimedia phone: this phone has two screens which can be bent together, and used jointly as a larger screen.

Wireless Japan 2004 Highlights: “Beyond 3G”

Beyond 3G: SANYO 3.5G phone for 2.4Mbps data download (for KDDI/AU):

KDDI/AU 3G phone W21SA
KDDI/AU 3G phone W21SA
SANYO show at Wireless Japan 2004
SANYO show at Wireless Japan 2004

Wireless Japan 2004: NEC “tag” wrapping multimedia design concept phone:

Concept model phone by NEC at WirelessJapan-2004 exhibition
Concept model phone by NEC at WirelessJapan-2004 exhibition

“Wireless Japan 2004” – much was expected: for example, it wasn’t surprising for anyone that DoCoMo’s i-Mode-FeliCa wallet-phones were center stage of the DoCoMo exhibit with lots of partners demoing wallet-phone applications.

NEC concept phone
NEC concept phone
NEC concept phone
NEC concept phone

Matsushita/Panasonic “Beyond 3G” design concepts:

Panasonic concept phone
Panasonic concept phone

DoCoMo UbiButton and UbiChip:

DoCoMo's UbiButton and UbiChip
DoCoMo’s UbiButton and UbiChip

DoCoMo i-Mode-FeliCa wallet phones – for electronic cash:

the world's first commercial wallet phone: P506iC - by DoCoMo and Panasonic
the world’s first commercial wallet phone: P506iC – by DoCoMo and Panasonic

DoCoMo i-Mode-FeliCa wallet phones – as an electronic door key:

Mobile phone as a RFID key to lock and unlock doors
Mobile phone as a RFID key to lock and unlock doors

We have substantial documentation about the Wireless Japan 2004 exhibition, and most other year’s Wireless Japan exhibitions. If you need information or documentation for prior art or other investigations, please contact us.

Learn more: report on Japan’s telecom sector (269 pages, pdf file):

Copyright 1997-2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Mobile

i-Mode: business models for mobile communications

Full day tutorial by Gerhard Fasol, organized by Seminario Internacional Prisma, held at the Hotel Metropolitan, Lisboa, March 21, 2002.

Attendance: about 50 executives from Portugal’s telecom operators, major consulting firms, and IT professionals attended the full day tutorial.

Download and update presentation as a pdf-file

Copyright·©1997-2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·