From The Editor

Back to Contents of Issue: October 2002

by Bruce Rutledge

IN THE WAITING AREA of Office Noa (see On the Move, page 15), the May 28, 2001, copy of Newsweek is strategically left on a table next to a pink couch and just below a painting of a nude Leda struggling with a swan. The magazine is the only reading material there except for a huge hardcover book on something related to France. The Newsweek cover blares, "The $300 billion folly: fear & greed in the race for third-generation phones." The image is one of a melting cellphone.

Of course, Noriko Kajiki, Office Noa's president and the woman gracing our cover this month, has a vested interest in reminding us of the follies of 3G; she's hitting it big with J-Phone's successful Sha-Mail phones, which are decidedly not 3G. But the subtle planting of the magazine aside, how prophetic is that Newsweek cover? While DoCoMo struggles with FOMA and KDDI posts good but not mind-boggling 3G phone sales, was Newsweek right?

The success of J-Phone's Sha-Mail, which has more than 6 million subscribers, certainly points to the glaring holes in the promotion of 3G. Makers of next-generation phones promised a lot, but they have delivered little. And when they have delivered something of interest, as in KDDI's global positioning satellite (GPS) phones, they have done it without wearing 3G on their sleeves. The hype that has surrounded 3G is its own worst enemy.

What 3G providers need is less talk about transmission speeds and more quirky, cool ideas to make the technology fun. Japan is a "crazy market" for technology, Kajiki says and she's right, but only if the technology that is marketed is fun. I-mode hit it big in an economic downturn, and so has Sha-Mail. Their success is no secret: They're both fun to use. 3G providers need to turn down the hype, head over to Shibuya and start talking to the teenagers. That may sound depressing to some, but so far with cellphones, that's been the secret to success.

The secret to success in China is a whole different ballgame. Richard Meyer gives us an insider's look at the burgeoning wireless startup scene in China, where new-comers do everything possible to appear different from their counterparts in the US and Japan. Why is J@pan Inc covering China, some of you may ask. The reason is twofold: Too few other publications are telling these stories in English and despite the political rhetoric, the economic ties between China and Japan are tighter than ever. We believe expanded coverage of business trends in China, the US and elsewhere that directly relate to Japan's business scene are of interest to J@pan Inc readers. But we're not out to rehash the stories of the major media -- we're after the stories that have yet to hit their radar screen.

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