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Web functions key to mobile-phone growth, says NTT Docomo
|03 октября 2008|
Growth in the mobile phone industry, according to Kiyoyuki Tsujimura, executive vice president of Japan's NTT Docomo, who delivered a keynote speech Wednesday here at the CEATEC Japan consumer electronics show, will depend more and more on "quality" Internet-based services based on "open" operating systems that allow handset makers to market their devices globally.
NTT DoCoMo, previously confined to the uniquely Japanese iMode development environment, now claims compatibility for its mobile handsets with Linux OS, with Google's Android and with Symbian OS.
Since Nokia's recent acquisition and "opening" of Symbian, all these operating systems are now "open" to widespread use and adaptation without a requirement to pay licensing fees or royalties.
The result, said Tsujimura, is the promise of a "global software structure" with "applications common [among all] operators."
For handset makers in this brave new world, development costs will drop, as any handset can be used by any operator, "More Nokia or Samsung handsets in Japan, or more Japanese handsets in other countries."
It might also be possible, he added, to affordably customize handsets to the needs of each user, creating a package of applications the user prefers while leaving out any that he or she does not want.
Saturated Japanese mobile market
The particular need for Japanese mobile phone companies to achieve the more global reach foreseen by Tsujimura is clear.
The current global penetration of mobile phones is roughly 3.5 billion subscribers, or half the world's population.
But in Japan, there are 100 million subscribers in a population of 125 million, with 90 percent of users on the Internet and 80 percent already using 3G technology.
This makes Japan the "most advanced" mobile-phone culture on earth, but also the "most mature" market. "Saturated" might be the more accurate characterization.
Looking on the bright side, Tsujimura said, "The mobile phone market is quite mature quantity-wise, but in terms of quality, there is room for further change and evolution."
Tsujimura's vision of this evolution will be mobile phones surpassing personal computers as the main gateway to the Internet, in a "fusion of the real world and the cyberworld." Key to this fusion, like the real estate game, will be "location."
Mobile users enjoy constant access to the Internet on mobile phones, compared to personal computers connected to fixed lines, which tend to be more stationary.
However, this "real world/cyberworld fusion" requires mobile phones with faster speeds and higher bandwidth than those available today.
Currently, compared to fiber-optic fixed lines, speed and bandwidth of mobile devices lag about five years. The gap will close around 2010, said Tsujimura, when current technologies, HSDPA and HSPA, give way to Super-3G, also called Long Term Evolution (LTE).
He said LTE will be capable of carrying data at maximum speed of 100 Megabits per second, or "in practice, several dozen megs per second."
As this evolution occurs, a host of Web-based functions will expand the capacity of a mobile phone.
It will be possible, for example, to buy paperless tickets for trains, buses and air flights, and to alter one's schedule online as late as six minutes before, for example, a train's departure.
Mobile devices will be far more able to obtain up-to-date traffic and weather information and to modify one's travel plans accordingly, with GPS assistance to navigate the new course.
Mobile devices will commonly offer consumers on-screen "coupons" for discounts on goods and services, like a burger-and-fries deal currently being tested jointly by NTT Docomo and McDonald's. Tsujimura also touted the potential of keitai (mobile phones) as cardless credit and debit cards.
All of these, and other, expanded functions will be possible as keitai shift many of their internal functions " especially memory -- to outside servers, reducing or eliminating a device's CPU and making each handset both "thinner" and more powerful.
"You change your behavior patterns," said the Docomo executive optimistically. "It will be almost as though your keitai serves as your personal secretary."