During Macworld Tokyo, you may hear the term “iMode” a lot. No, it’s not Apple’s latest software product, but it is the answer of NTT (Japan’s telecom monopoly) to the content provider’s dilemma: how do you generate content and get paid for it? In other words, it’s a business model for content providers getting paid.
What NTT has done — and done well — is build in a 9 percent surcharge to provide content to end users on the mobile phone/PDA/ G3 (third generation) phones by using a reduced set of compact HTML. In other words, let’s say that MacCentral is an iMode service and a user accessed this on subscription at, let’s say, 25 cents a month. That fee would be deducted directly from your Ma Bell phone bill and NTT would take 9 percent for handling the billing, etc., and MacCentral would get the rest.
According to Ian Shortreed of Mercury Software Japan, the reasons for the overwhelming acceptance of iMode in Japan are “truly paradoxical and cultural.” He told MacCentral that the country has one of the lowest rates of computer literacy in Asia resulting from “an antiquated educational system.” A second reason is that the average worker commutes approximately 90 minutes so mobility is important. Also, a new phone line into your home or business costs US$800 in Japan while a new mobile phone costs nothing and the monthly fee starts at $38 (NTT make its profit by charging the end user a packet fee for every two bytes of data uploaded or content that’s downloaded content.”
Interestingly, Sony and NTT have announced a joint venture to provide gaming via iMode. Shortreed said this is “kind of a knee jerk reaction to the introduction of MS Xbox in the fall which will herald a trans-Pacific consumer war with Microsoft.” Microsoft is also debuting its “iMode killer” telephony operating system, codenamed “Stinger,” next week in Europe, he added. Samsung, Misubishi and others have already signed the fine line as original equipment manufacturers.
“The core development environment for PlayStation is Linux, and Sony’s own OS background is in Unix (they used to manufacture the News workstation until Sun badly derailed that plan 10 years ago),” Shortreed said. “Who knows? Maybe OS X will slip between the cracks in this war between the giants.”
Also, for more info on iMode, check out a well researched
Red Herring article.