Microsoft Corp. and Japanese cell phone company NTT Mobile Communications Network, Inc.(NTT DoCoMo), are joining forces to offer Japan’s 27 million cellular phone customers wireless Internet access. The 50-50 joint venture, Mobimagic Co. Ltd., will be a Japanese corporation, and will develop and market mobile data services for users of NTT DoCoMo’s wireless networks. Once established, Japanese users will be able to retrieve files from home or office PCs over the phone, read their e-mail and view calendars using Microsoft’s Windows CE operating software.
Strong E-Commerce Platform
Industry observers feel that this deal will also be a strong e-commerce platform since the new service will allow users to download video and music from the Internet. In fact just last month, NTT DoCoMo announced that it was working with Japan’s giant manufacturer of telecommunications equipment Matsushita to explore delivering music to its users.
With the number of households using personal computers to log on to the Internet in Japan at somewhere between 10 and 15 percent, cell phones are expected by many to become the main vehicle for Internet access for Japanese consumers.
Analysts say that the growing trend of using wireless devices to jumpstart e-commerce is a strategy that is bearing fruit throughout the world. For instance, the Italians have already shown thate-commerce can catch fire in a country via handheld devices — despite its dearth of home PCs.
A recent study done by Forrester Research showed that Italy’se-commerce marketplace is about to explode via wireless telephones.
Strong Network, Strong Promotion
Meanwhile, Mobimagic plans to build a data center service for users of mobile telephones, Palm-size PCs, and other mobile computing devices. The data center, built on Microsoft’s platform technology, is expected to begin operations in mid-2000. Mobimagic will initially offer business customers mobile access to e-mail, scheduling and other intranet-based applications over NTT DoCoMo’s 64Kbps circuit-switched Personal Handyphone System wireless network. The joint venture plans to extend the reach of its services to users of NTT DoCoMo’s other networks.
Company officials added that cellular phones using Microsoft microbrowser technology and Palm-size PCs running the Microsoft Windows CE operating system will be aggressively promoted in conjunction with widespread rollout of Mobimagic services. NTT DoCoMo and Microsoft will also cooperate on programs to encourage broader availability of wireless connectivity for notebook computers and Palm-size PCs.
“Mobility is central to Microsoft’s vision, and we are excited about working with a world-class network provider like NTT DoCoMo to deliver mobile data services to our customers in Japan,” said Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft. “Microsoft’s platforms and services combined with NTT DoCoMo’s mobile networks will provide users with a wide range of scaleable and robust data services to enrich their daily lives.”
“NTT DoCoMo’s vision for the next millennium revolves around providing mobile multimedia access any time, anywhere and to anyone,” said Keiji Tachikawa, president of NTT DoCoMo. “This extended alliance with Microsoft, a company whose vision is aligned with our own, represents a significant step toward making both companies’ visions a reality.”
About NTT DoCoMo
NTT DoCoMo provides a range of wireless services including cellular phone, paging, satellite mobile communication, maritime telephone and in-flight telephones. Services are provided nationwide by nine regional subsidiaries.
The company had more than 27.7 million mobile phone subscribers as of September 1999, including both Personal Digital Cellular and Personal Handyphone System mobile phone customers.