JIN-517 -- Apple prepares to lift the veil on its next potential computing milestone

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J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends in Japan.
Issue No. 517 Wednesday, January 27, 2010, Tokyo

Anticipating a category-changing product is generally a rare occurrence, except when it comes to Apple.

Since about 2003 rumors have swirled around the possibility of an Apple tablet computer. Then, in 2007, the rumors gained new currency as analysts and tech gurus made claims that indicated the mysterious device would soon see the light of day. Finally, just two weeks ago, Apple sent out an invitation to an event scheduled for January 27th to launch a brand new, as yet unnamed, product that most of the media and financial world expect to be a tablet computer.

Fake images, bogus tweets, and numerous sketchy details have surfaced in recent weeks in the run-up to the supposed launch of the device, but it was the Wall Street Journal that offered possibly the first credible indication that an Apple table was in the offing when it wrote on Sunday, "Among major publishers, News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers was in serious negotiations with Apple late on Tuesday to appear in the starting lineup for the tablet, set to be unveiled at a news conference in San Francisco Wednesday morning."

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Start a Company in Japan

Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar 20th of Feb, 2010

If you have been considering setting up your own company,
find out what it takes to make it successful.
Terrie Lloyd, founder of over 13 start-up companies in Japan,
will be giving an English-language seminar and Q and A on
starting up a company in Japan.
This is an ideal opportunity to find out what is involved,
and to ask specific questions that are not normally answered
in business books.
All materials are in English and are Japan-focused.

For more details:
http://www.japaninc.com/entrepreneur_handbook_seminar

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While many Apple watchers seem to expect a device that is focused on changing the business model and presentation of traditional print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.), one report from a company called Flurry Analytics indicates the device may also be devoted to gaming. The web analytics company recently detected 50 unidentified devices based in Cupertino, California (Apple's headquarters) testing the device using roughly 200 applications -- in order of frequency -- for gaming, entertainment and news and books.

Finally, the most concrete leak that just about confirms the launch of an Apple tablet came from Terry McGraw, the CEO of publisher McGraw-Hill. In a January 26th appearance on the business news network CNBC McGraw said, “We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system and so it will be transferable. So what you are going to be able to do now is we have a consortium of e-books. And we have 95 percent of all our materials that are in e-book format on that one. So now with the tablet you’re going to open up the higher education market, the professional market. The tablet is going to be just really terrific.”

For the geek insider set, the real shocker during the interview with McGraw was when he revealed what many had assumed, but no one could confirm, which is that the tablet's OS would be based on the iPhone operating system, essentially allowing most, if not all, of the iPhone's applications to be ported to the new tablet device. Considering Apple's traditionally hyper-secretive pre-launch policy regarding new products, one wonders if McGraw received an angry, early morning phone call from Apple's CEO Steve Jobs.

Now that we essentially have confirmation that Apple will indeed release a tablet (some have indicated it will be called "the iPad"), two of the biggest remaining questions are: 1. Will it sufficiently fill a niche not already being served by laptops and smartphones, and 2. How will Amazon, creator of the very popular Kindle ebook reader, respond.

Microsoft, while not the most innovative in terms of software, pioneered the notion of a mainstream tablet computers years ago, and the category failed to catch on in any significant way. Although the excitement surrounding a new Apple product launch remains, many veteran tech analysts have expressed that the device will serve any significantly unmet need in the market, in contrast to the iPhone, a product that breathed new life into a somewhat stagnant mobile phone market.

As for the Kindle, rumors have already surfaced that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may gradually abandon his aggressive promotion of the device in favor of promoting the Kindle software application that already serves the growing ranks of digital ebook consumers on the iPhone.

When it comes to Apple's fortunes in Japan, despite the skeptics pointing to techno-cultural differences, the tablet's little brother, the iPhone, is a confirmed hit in the country. According to the Apple's recent report, the company's net sales in Japan ballooned to $285 million or 57 percent in Q1, primarily on the back of iPhone sales. In fact, iPhone sales in Japan have increased 400 percent year-over-year. Globally, Apple’s fiscal first-quarter profit improved by 50 percent reaching $3.38 billion on revenue of $15.68 billion.

Whether the iPad will capture the Japanese market's imagination in the same way the iPhone did is up for debate. But if history is any reliable guide, Japan's primary focus on mobile phones as a means to access the Internet and most digital information would seem to present a significant obstacle to the iPad's adoption in the region. Shaking up the mobile phone and music player category is one thing, but getting Japanese consumers to change their general computing habits will probably require a lot more effort than the initiatives used to introduce the iPhone to the market. Luckily, we only have about 24 hours left to wait for most of the answers to our questions.

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Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo - Seminar
- Tuesday, February 2nd

Speaker: Mark Peterson, Founder of Notting Hill Cakes

Start off the year with something sweet and join us to hear
Mark Peterson, Founder of Notting Hill Cakes.
Established in Japan in 2006, Notting Hill is Japan's most
famous destination for home-made British and American baked
goods such as cupcakes, cookies and scones.
Wholesale and corporate customers include Dean & Deluca,
Hermes, Paul Smith, Dunhill and Piaget.

Mark has been involved with the baking business since 1990
when he opened his first store in London.
In addition, he worked for five years as a Producer for
broadcaster CNBC Business News in the London bureau.

Please sign up early while seats are available.

Date/Time: Tuesday, February 2nd
- Doors open at 6:30pm, Seminar starts at 7:00pm

Location: The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
Language: English
Website: http://www.ea-tokyo.com

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---------------- ICA Event - February 18 ------------------

Speaker: Terry Warren, President-Advantage24 K.K.
Topic: Cloud Computing: Fact or Fiction?

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)

Date: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members)
Open to all-Venue is The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan
http://www.fccj.or.jp/aboutus/map

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