I-Mode Crash Course

I-Mode Crash Course

by John R. Vacca


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Insider details on the world's most successful wireless Internet application

The wireless Internet service that dominates the Japanese market is coming to the United States and Europe. i-mode Crash Course helps you prepare, whether your interest is technical or financial…whether you're offering the killer app or competing against it…even if you're simply a consumer who wants to get on top of the latest technology. Author John Vacca's big-picture focus includes installation, deployment and configuration. He provides the insights you need to analyze markets, predict results, and influence outcomes. Learn:

  • How i-mode connects cell phones and other handhelds to the Internet for instant messaging, email, online shopping, real-time news, stocks, weather reports, and more
  • Why i-mode beat out WAP
  • Development secrets behind i-mode applications and the advantages of cHTML
  • The Japanese market strategy and plans to take America and Europe this year

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071381871
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 10/25/2001
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.11(d)

About the Author

John Vacca is an information technology consultant and internationally known author based in Pomeroy, Ohio. Since 1982, John has authored 29 books and more than 370 articles in the areas of Internet and Intranet security, programming, systems development, rapid application development, multimedia and the Internet. John was also a configuration management specialist, computer specialist, and the computer security official for NASA's space station program (Freedom) and the International Space Station Program, from 1988 until his early retirement from NASA in 1995.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: i-Mode Wireless Fundamentals

The teenage girls sit in cafes or postures on the corners of Tokyo's hip Shibuya district, dressed in short skirts and armed with fluorescent phones. When they flirt, they don't use their eyes. Instead, they deploy their thumbs, punching madly on the keypads of their mobile phones to dispatch an e-mail to a friend.

The hottest gadget in Japan, a phone that can ring up the Internet with the push of a button, is made by NTT DoCoMo1, the hottest business in Japan. The company's name doesn't mean anywhere for anything. Its information mode (i-Mode) phones are ubiquitous in and around Tokyo, and the company makes no secret of the fact that it wants to conquer America next. Recently, it inked a deal with Internet giant America Online, essentially gobbling up AOL's struggling outpost in Japan and, more importantly, gaining a foothold in North America.

NTT-DoCoMo is a subsidiary of Japan's incumbent tele-phone operator NTT. The majority of NTT-DoCoMo's shares are owned by NTT, and the majority of NTT's shares are owned by the Japanese government. NTT-DoCoMo's shares are separately listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and on the Osaka Stock Exchange, and NTT-DoCoMo's market value (capitalization) makes it one of the world's most valued companies

However, will i-Mode translate into American? It is an open question whether the success of i-Mode is due to the superiority of the technology or is unique to behavior in Japan. No one disputes that cultural factors have helped fuel DoCoMo's success in Japan. Most Japanese do not own a PC, have never logged on to the World Wide Web and are completely clueless when it comes to streaming video, CD-quality music, and realistic online graphics. Having never taken a bite of the apple, DoCoMo's 26 million subscribers are content with the tiny, black-and-white screen on their mobile phones, which can do little more than display text and simple anima-tion. Most of them don't even realize they are connected to the Internet. It's not the Internet to them; it's just a telephone with added features.

Internet-savvy Americans would never endure such dreary stuff, gloat naysayers. However, DoCoMo is testing international waters. It has a foothold in Indonesia and has purchased stakes in the Dutch company KPN Mobile and in Hutchison 3G UK Holdings, one of five licensees for next-generation phones in the United Kingdom.

What makes i-Mode a smash in Japan is its technical ingenuity and its got-to-have content (see sidebar, "Mad about i-Mode"). The design offers a huge variety of Internet sites and downloads, the phone displays them well enough, and the whole package is cheap. It uses a computer language that is a stepchild of the code used to design Web pages on the Internet. So, programmers accustomed to creating Web sites for the Internet can easily adapt them for access by i-Mode or even write new programs for it. The result is lots of content, including about 40,000 Web sites written just for the system, from horoscopes to train timetables to job-search engines.

Mari Matsunaga invented i-Mode. Fortune Magazine recently selected her as the most powerful woman in business.

Mad About i-Mode

Understanding why some companies are agog over mobile commerce (m-commerce) takes no more than a look to Japan, where 16 percent of Japanese mobile phone owners use their phones to go online. Japanese wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo's i-Mode service has been a runaway success, so much so that the nation's largest telco stopped registering new users. Recently, Santa Clara, California-based enCommerce demonstrated that its getAccess software supported secure, wireless transactions on NTT DoCoMo, paving the way for m-commerce in North America (see Appendix E, "Internet, M-commerce, i-Mode In Japan").

Part of the reason for the success of the i-Mode service is that it addresses one aspect of Japanese culture-reticence. I-Mode is a fashion, but it's very suited as a way for Japanese people to communicate, because Japanese people don't like to say things directly. If you use i-Mode, you can say something more clearly than on the telephone. Mobile messaging fits the Japanese culture and lifestyle much better than the desktop version—especially in the big cities like Tokyo. Everybody is always on the move; the trains are crowded, and the apartments and offices are small. Even small laptops are too big and unhandy to use on the train, but cell phones are small enough that you can hold them in one hand and even type with the same hand if necessary. You see people in Tokyo and throughout Japan typing mail messages on their phones without even looking at the keypad.

It's very easy to sign up and pay for i-Mode. Users can do it right on their phones with four clicks; the service is added to the monthly phone bill. Of course, unsubscribing is just as easy: you just delete the service from the special menu and that's it.

NTT DoCoMo's i-Mode is one of four wireless data services available in Japan. Though it's the most expensive, it is preferred because it's faster, has better service, and has more content. Although i-Mode may cost more than the others, it's still relatively cheap: 130 yen a week. That's analogous to U.S. wireless data services, which cost around $8 a month.

However, the analogy falls short when you compare the relative penetration of personal computers in the United States and Japan. They started with low penetration of the Internet in households and high penetration of wireless services. So when i-Mode came out, people could understand it easily even if they didn't have a home com-puter. The Unites States has the opposite—a higher penetration of household Internet usage.

However, a lesson is to be learn from Japan. DoCoMo is now the largest ISP in Japan because of its wireless Internet customers. Also, i-Mode was a success because it got content that customers wanted. That's thanks to the i-Mode's open architecture, which, like Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), is easy to build content for. Although that content will be different around the globe, you need content to be successful in wireless Net space.2

That's not the case in the United States and Europe, where DoCoMo's rivals, including Ericsson and Nokia, rely on a different language, called the wireless application protocol(WAP), that has yet to dazzle phone surfers (see Chapter 8, "I-Mode versus Wireless Application Protocol [WAP]"). The reason i-Mode is so popular is that it works well and it's cheap for the user.

Once online, subscribers pay for what they get, not for how long they're logged on. An e-mail message about the length of this paragraph can be sent for about two cents. DoCoMo also charges each time data is downloaded. That sets people back about 12 cents for a news item and 9 cents for a quick search of an English-Japanese dictionary.

Those yen do add up. The company earned $3.5 billion on $47.2 billion in sales in 2000. Yet, DoCoMo, in what may be its most important innovation, makes paying the bill painless. Signing up for the service is easy, and charges are simply added to the monthly phone bill, including the basic subscription charge, the cost of mail, and charges for visits to Web sites. That means you don’t need a credit card every time you go online.

DoCoMo’s technical wizardry doesn't mean that Internet phones will catch on in middle America, let alone catapult DoCoMo into an industry beater. As the offspring of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT), the near monopoly that dominates Japanese telecommunications, DoCoMo has built-in advantages at home that it won't get in the United States. NTT graciously set the table for DoCoMo: everything from handsets to the network infrastructure was designed to work in Japan (see sidebar, "Banking on Portable Phones")....

Table of Contents

PART ONE: I-MODE WIRELESS FUNDAMENTALSChapter 1: I-Mode Wireless Fundamentals Chapter 2: I-Mode Technology Chapter 3: Using I-Mode Chapter 4: The Types and Sources of Technology That Support i-mode PART TWO: DEVELOPING I-MODE APPLICATIONS Chapter 5: Official I-Mode Menu Sites Chapter 6: Developing For I-Mode Chapter 7: I-Mode For Business PART THREE: INSTALLING AND DEPLOYING I-MODE Chapter 8: I-Mode Versus Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) Chapter 9: I-Mode Emulators: Testing Chapter 10: Security On I-Mode Chapter 11: The International I-Mode Spectrum. Chapter 12: E-mail, Short Messaging, Message-Free, Message-Request Chapter 13: Third Generation (3G) Broadband Mobile PART FOUR:  CONFIGURING I-MODE Chapter 14: I-Mode And Java Chapter 15: I-Mode Handsets PART FIVE:  MANAGING I-MODE MARKETS Chapter 16: Overview Of I-Mode Markets. Chapter 17: Overview of the Japanese Cellular Market. Chapter 18: The Japanese Mobile Data Market. (and more...)

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