Back to Contents of Issue: January 2004

Going Mobile

by Leo Lewis

SAY IT WITH PIXELS. With a memory as short as mine, you have to repeat things to make sure they properly sink in. So while I've said it before, I'll say it again: mobile phones with cameras mounted on them are going to change the world. They are creating new trends, new crimes and new social norms -- and they are selling like hotcakes. To find out how popular these devices are, the Mitsubishi Research Institute conducted a survey of a whopping 324 people around the country between the ages of 15 to 59, asking if they owned such devices and/or a digital camera. "Both," replied 40.3 percent of those in their 20s. Teens owning both were only slightly fewer, at 38.5 percent. Those in their 30s and 40s were grouped fairly closely, with 25.8 percent for the former and 23.9 percent for the latter. Among those over 50, the figures plummeted to 17.5 percent.

IF THE SIGHT OF the statistics above inspires skepticism, it should. MRI should be ashamed of itself for publishing numbers based on such a minuscule survey. Fortunately, in another survey 19,794 cell phone owners were asked by Infoplant what subjects they were most likely to snap with the camera-mounted phones. It's good to see that vanity is still a force to be reckoned with. More than a quarter of the replies were: "myself." The most frequently given reply, however, was "friends and acquaintances," cited by 51.7 percent, followed in descending order by family members, 44.5 percent; pets, 33.4 percent; scenery, 25.9 percent; interesting things encountered on the street, 22.3 percent; and reminders to do things, 20.0 percent. A little notepad and a pencil has always suited me for that task, but then, I'm a fish.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE darker side of these phones? "Digi-crimes" is the vile neologism stamped on what is fast becoming an unexplored legal arena. The most obvious crime is to snap something under copyright without paying a bean for it. Tempting when Japanese newsstands and bookshops are perfectly used to people standing for hours leafing through their finds. Survey company Nepro Japan thought it could gain some notoriety by calling attention to the first survey of its kind on the new phenomenon of "digital shoplifting." Naturally they could not very well query people on what they actually purloined with their digital cameras, so they asked approximately 6,000 people what they would shoot if there were to engage in such nefarious behavior. The replies: cooking recipes, 14 percent; data on restaurants and eating out, 13 percent; hair styles and fashions, 10 percent; cinema and concerts, 9 percent; information on job-hunting, 8 percent; photos of celebrities, 5 percent; data on real estate and housing, 3 percent; and the largest group, 30 percent, which with the honesty of a choirboy replied, "nothing in particular."

TWO FUJIOS AND A Carlos. Well-respected men. As a part of business daily Nikkei Industrial News's observances of its 30th anniversary, that newspaper polled the presidents of 137 major companies regarding which business leader they respected the most. The winner, with 148 points, was Canon president Fujio Mitarai, (age 68). Second with a distant 69 points was Nissan president Carlos Ghosn (49), and third, Toyota president Fujio Cho (66) with 61 points. The top 10 was rounded out by Chihiro Kanegawa (77) of Shinetsu Chemical Industries, 40 points; Toshifumi Suzuki (70) of Ito Yokado, 34 points; Uichiro Tamba (64) of Itochu Corporation, 19 points; Kunio Takeda (63) of Takeda Pharmaceutical, 14 points; Takuya Goto (63) of Kao, 13 points; Nobuyuki Idei (65) of Sony, 12 points; and Kunio Nakamura (64) of Matsushita Electric Industries, 11 points.

I SPEND MOST OF MY life in a bowl, so trendy is not exactly my forte. Thank goodness, therefore, for Nikkei Trendy. In its December 2003 issue, it produced this list of hot trends: 1st, the boom ignited by the Hanshin Tiger's pennant victory; 2nd, the "Healthya" tea drink from Kao; 3rd, GooTa instant noodles (Nissin); 4th, the new business/leisure complex in Roppongi Hills; 5th, the movie entitled "The Movie 2," which attracted 12 million theater goers; 6th, National's DIGA home DVD recorder; 7th, the second-generation version of Toyota's Prius hybrid car; 8th, Lotte's Coolish frozen dessert in a squeeze container; 9th, urban hot springs resorts; and 10th, an over-the-counter sleep preparation from pharmaceutical maker SSP Co. called Dorieru. Of course, there is a perfectly sad (or powerfully stimulating) irony in here somewhere. Seems consumers got so tired of consuming things that sleeping pills made the grade. Advice from a prickly pal: Get to bed! @

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