Sunday, 13 March 2011

Smartphone wake-up call for Japan-Japan's mobile phone market -- one of the largest and most structurally unusual -- is facing change

The rise of competition weakens Japanese grip on the industry Taiwanese electronic giant HTC and US electronics giant Motorola are doing well.

"For years, the most prominent logo on a Japanese mobile phone has not been the manufacturer's but that of NTT DoCoMo, KDDI or Softbank, the country's three big network operators.The trio has dictated everything from the way phones are marketed to their features and design.Japanese handset makers such as Toshiba, NEC and Sharp have been relegated to the role of contract manufacturers, not unlike the anonymous Taiwan groups that build Apple's iPhones."Carriers have had everything their way," Michito Kimura, senior market analyst at IDC, a research group, says. "They have had total control."two of the three groups -- DoCoMo and KDDI, which markets under the name "au" -- even have their own platforms for e-mail, web surfing and other applications.

Their dominance, analysts say, is one reason Japan's once world-beating mobile technology never spread beyond the domestic market.Now, smartphones such as the iPhone and more recent Google Android-based models are spreading fast.DoCoMo, Japan's biggest carrier with 57m subscribers, has sold more than 2m of the devices this fiscal year, double its initial estimate, and expects them to outsell its own "i-mode" platform phones by 2012."Our future depends on how fast we can shift [to smartphones]," Ryuji Yamada, DoCoMo chief executive, says."

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