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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