Could the real news story just be iPhone 3G's launch in Japan?

in iPhone edited January 2014
I have a feeling that the really interesting iPhone 3G story will be Japan. SoftBank is more than just a cellphone company; it is Japan's largest internet operation. It controls Yahoo! Japan which is twice as large as Google with more than 60% share in Japan. Yahoo! Japan is also dominant in online auctions and online retail in a way that eBay and Amazon can't match. SoftBank also owns a large share in Alibaba, one of China's largest B2B internet companies.

Apple and SoftBank are extremely well-placed to leverage their relationships with each other. DoCoMo may be the largest player in the cellphone business but it lags SoftBank in the internet services that matter. SoftBank has sufficient infrastructure to be a viable competitor because it owns a high-speed ADSL network and fixed line services that complement its content offerings on Yahoo! Japan. Yahoo! BB is very popular.

Apple needs SoftBank to bring the true power of the internet to mobile in Japan. Yes, there were Japanese mobile phones that had internet long before iPhone but the way they worked did not allow multi-channel development. Separate development teams were heavily needed for PC content and mobile content. SoftBank has established a reputation for great pricing but is placing iPhone as a premium product. They wouldn't be doing that if they felt iPhone didn't deserve a premium. People who post repeatedly on blogs complaining that iPhone "lacks" Mobile TV, mobile commerce and other features like network access in subways etc., fail to realize that many (not all) of these are carrier ecosystem-defined limitations that reflect bandwidth constraints and other issues unrelated to the physical handset capability. iPhone can do pretty much whatever it is programed to do. In time, Japan will develop iPhone capabilities unique to its normal network carrier market offerings, forcing follow-on innovation from carriers in other markets around the world.

PS: I forgot to add, from the market satisfaction survey's I have had a chance to read, SoftBank's reception and network quality kind of sucks when compared to NTT DoCoMo and KDDI. This will be a consumer-driven adoption rather than an enterprise expansion for Apple. Apple must get a deal with DoCoMo to expand into enterprise.

Its CEO Masayoshi Son, cut his entrepreneurial teeth in the Bay Area and is truly a peer to Steve Jobs in pushing boundaries. It comes as absolutely no surprise that Apple cut the first deal with them. Son has been talking about exactly this kind of vision for more than a year.

Masayoshi Son will be crucial to iPhone's roll-out in China, particularly its business applications for SMEs and together Apple and SoftBank can develop a unique mobile content ecosystem in Japan and China. I'm more excited about iPhone 3Gs launch in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia than I am about any other launches.

I've explained my reasons for Japan. For Hong Kong, the first-generation iPhone was heavily adopted and is a well-loved, credible device. The subscription plans announced in Hong Kong for iPhone are some of the best in the world so I expect official adoption to increase steadily with real network carrier support. Finally, for Australia, the fact that all but one carrier will have iPhone 3G bodes well. The plans are a little expensive but consumer interest and enthusiasm is very, very high. That's always a good thing.

Apple can make its 10 million target for 2008 (basically sell 3.5 million more iPhones) without selling that many additional iPhones in the soft US economy if it opens strongly in these three important Asian markets. With SoftBank it has a winner in both brand appeal, content and corporate attitude. Some may strongly disagree but Masayoshi Son himself recently predicted that iPhone 3G units would "evaporate" within hours of launch.

As the dotcom bubble losses show, Masayoshi Son is not a stranger to wild optimism and overenthusiastic predictions, but he hasn't become the richest billionaire in Japan by making only poor bets. He's not delusional when he says of his premium-positioned launch of iPhone on SoftBank's network, “There have been users who were just attracted to our low price, but the main point this time is feature attractiveness rather than price.”

If the iPhone 3G is really a crap phone by Japanese standards, why would he be saying this about feature attractiveness? Your thoughts and strong arguments against my opinion are most welcome.


  • Reply 1 of 2
    well, anywhere you go in the world, including the technological pinacle of japan, you won't find many cell phones like the iphone. this uniqueness is bound to attract some customers even in a tech-saturated market, as masayoshi says.

    however, i'd like to pass on an anecdote that my japanese teacher told me once. he said that, for years now, internet-enabled phones have been a commonplace item among japanese, especially those in tokyo and other superurban areas. nowadays, it isn't uncommon to see people walking around the streets while looking down at their cellphones, as they videoconference with a friend or coworker wirelessly using their phone's second, frontal camera and its large screen. my teacher also showed me his phone, which he imported from japan, which featured hardware such as a full keyboard, touchpad, gps, and even a fingerprint swipe for security, software which enabled him to watch myriad video and audio forms as well as live tv and radio and browse the internet, to say the least, and firmware which allowed him to install whichever third-party applications he wished, use the phone as a hard drive, and even change the operating system.

    in short, while the interface of the iphone may be creating some hype, the capabilites of it are not new or advanced in any way, and are likely average at best.

    i'm also skeptical of your claim that "Japan will develop iPhone capabilities unique to its normal network carrier market offerings". seeing as the app store will be run by apple around the world, and apple's efforts and focus will be centered on the us market and functions of the iphone therein, i do not think that the japanese iphone will gain many special abilities or apps that will "lead to progress worldwide", or even be much different from america's. and, since i have already established that america's cell phone technology is far behind japan's, the fact that the iphone's powers in japan will be strongly based on its american version, it is unlikely that the japanese iphone's capabilities will in any way stand out in that nation's market.
  • Reply 2 of 2
    nofeernofeer Posts: 2,422member
    the apps store will make the iphone some what special, its hard for me to imagine that all those countries don't have software developers that want on this train. these can be special interest, and country specific. how many cellpones have an apps store structured like apple? isn't this unigue? and thus i feel the growth will be substantial, i don't know about 45million in 09 like some projections, but we don't have the apps store yet, and other form factors may be up SJ sleeve...i feel the importance of the apps store is viewed on how the compitition is fumbling around MS (can't even comteplate them having anything apps store like), nokia, google, rim.....the apps (tested and approved--wow thats really nice ) and ease of syncing will make the iphone platform class leader soon.

    the big question is how aggressive will SJ be country by country, market by market to get stuff out there and PUSH those carrier's. the iphone has helped ATT get off there ars (maybe alittle) there has got to be other form factors like they did with the ipod to have better price ranges.
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