SoftBank’s flagship store

Yesterday (August 26, 2006) SoftBank opened the new Roppongi flagship store. SoftBank’s white/silver/grey colorscheme replaces Vodafone’s bright red:

Rebranding Vodafone KK's former Roppongi flagship store to the SoftBank brand, after acquisition of Vodafone KK by SoftBank
Rebranding Vodafone KK’s former Roppongi flagship store to the SoftBank brand, after acquisition of Vodafone KK by SoftBank
SoftBank rebrands the former Vodafone KK flagship store in Roppongi
SoftBank rebrands the former Vodafone KK flagship store in Roppongi

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YAHOO and Google’s mobile strategies

Japan is a couple of years ahead of Europe and US in mobile communications by most measures.

What are GOOGLE and YAHOO doing in Japan’s mobile sector?

GOOGLE partnered with KDDI (Japan’s No. 2 mobile operator with about 25 million mobile subscribers) to develop mobile search.

YAHOO-Japan made a large step forward when SoftBank acquired Vodafone’s Japan operations in March this year.

SoftBank’s latest mobile phones include a “Y” = YAHOO button:

SoftBank's Yahoo button
SoftBank’s Yahoo button

Yesterday, August 26, 2006, SoftBank opened it’s new flagship store in Tokyo-Roppongi including a YAHOO-Spot:

SoftBank opens Yahoo-spots within the SoftBank stores
SoftBank opens Yahoo-spots within the SoftBank stores

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iPhone? iTunes/iPod phones?

There is a lot of discussions about whether Steve jobs is going to announce an iPhone or iPod-Phone at the Apple Computer Developer’s Conference in SF – according to the headline report on Saturday May 13th, 2006 in Nihon Keizai Shinbun ( the world’s largest business daily ) it’s already known since May this year that Apple and SoftBank are developing such a joint mobile phone with iPod and iTunes functions.

On March 17 SoftBank announced the full acquisition of Vodafone’s Japan subsidiary – the former J-Phone –  jointly with YAHOO-Japan as a co-investor – so with about 15 million mobile subscribers in the world’s most advanced mobile market (Japan), SoftBank/Apple will have the firepower to make such a phone a success, provided it’s tuned to Japanese consumers’ needs and dreams – my guess is that it probably will be.

By pure coincidence, the Apple/SoftBank headlines appeared one or two days after DoCoMo and Microsoft announced a music cooperation.

Apple/SoftBank iPod mobile phones coupled to iTunes could have quite a lot of impact on Japan’s music industry: about 20% of Japan’s music sales are to mobile phones. Of all music downloads in Japan about 6% are fixed line internet downloads, and 94% are music downloads to mobile phones: internet music downloads are almost neglibile in comparison to mobile phone music downloads.

Therefore even if iTunes has a huge market share in the fixed line internet world, iTunes  cannot have much impact in Japan overall if limited to fixed line  internet downloads. iTunes downloads to mobile phones will change the business models of Japan’s music industry – at the moment music downloads to mobile phones cost a lot more than iTunes downloads. An iPod/iTunes music store could reshape the mobile music market in Japan.

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M-Commerce towards US$ 100 billion

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” title=”Eurotechnology report on mobile payments and mobile commerce” target=”_blank”>Mobile commerce (the mobile phone equivalent of mailorder) exceeded mobile content (music, weather, news, etc) first in 2004 in Japan and is on the way to reach US$ 100 billion in the not too distant future. Read more about Japan’s m-commerce sector below.

mobile commerce and mobile content in Japan
mobile commerce and mobile content in Japan

US$ 0.5 Billion killer application for m-commerce?

We estimate that m-commerce (the mobile equivalent of mail order, or instant purchase of goods and services) has reached approximately US$ 10 billion per year in Japan, and most likely exceeds this mark already. Mobile phones are used in Japan to purchase many different types of products from music, to train tickets, air tickets, event tickets, books, and even cars. In our work for our customers we analyzed in detail a “killer application” for mobile commerce, where in Japan a single mobile website achieves about US$ 0.5 billion in annual sales.

read about mobile commerce (and the US$ 0.5 Billion/year killer m-commerce site…

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SoftBank a small fry??

In my 20 years of business and work between US/Japan and EU/Japan, I am often surprised how Western executives underestimate economic size and strength of Japan and it’s companies – here is another example:
BusinessWeek writes about the SoftBank/iPod phone, and writes that former Apple executives says that Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs wouldn’t normally tie up with a “small fry” like SoftBank

Is SoftBank really a small fry? Let’s check it out:

1. Apple vs SoftBank revenues

Softbank + Softbank-Mobile (former Vodafone KK) combined have substantially higher revenues than Apple Computer for financial years 2005 and 2006 - so clearly Softbank is no 'small fry' at all compared to Apple Computer
Softbank + Softbank-Mobile (former Vodafone KK) combined have substantially higher revenues than Apple Computer for financial years 2005 and 2006 – so clearly Softbank is no ‘small fry’ at all compared to Apple Computer

Revenues of SoftBank + SoftBank Mobile (x-Vodafone KK) were on the order of YEN 2500 Billion (US$ 22 Billion) for the financial year that ended March 31, 2006.
Revenues of Apple Computer were US$ 13.9 Billion for the year ended Sept 24, 2005. – So in terms of revenue the new SoftBank Group (including the recently acquired x-Vodafone KK) is almost twice as large as Apple Computer.

2. Apple vs SoftBank market capitalization

On May 19, 2006, market cap of SoftBank and SoftBank Mobile combined was about 20% less than Apple's market cap
On May 19, 2006, market cap of SoftBank and SoftBank Mobile combined was about 20% less than Apple’s market cap

Market capitalization of Apple Computer was US$ 54.9 Billion on May 19, 2006. Market capitalization of SoftBank (US$ 28 Billion) plus SoftBank Mobile Corp (US$ 15 Billion) was on the order of US$ 43 Billion.

BusinessWeek took note of my letter and published a correction on May 21, 2006, which you can find here and here.

More about Japan’s telecom industry sector in our JCOMM-Report
More about Softbank in our Softbank report

Note added on August 13, 2008:

When the iPhone was actually introduced to Japan by SoftBank in 2008, Mr Tetsuzo Matsumoto, CTO and Board Member of SoftBank-Mobile and myself were invited by the Foreign Correspondents Club to hold a Press Conference to comment on the iPhone introduction to Japan – you can find the records here.

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