"iPhone's Impact: One month on"

Japan and technology in the news today:

Great analysis from Business Week’s Eye on Asia blog about the iPhone and its impact on Japan one month after its debut:

The iPhone was either hailed as a revolutionary new device which would lead the way for change in mobile manufacturing in Japan, or predicted to be a disappointment because the Japanese phones are good enough anyway. But they were both wrong, claims Kenji Hall, the article’s author.

Hall explains that yes, the screen is too small for the internet, yes, the web loading time is slow and yes, the SoftBank network is unreliable. But he claims that the one saving grace of the iPhone is that it’s fun—something that could help it reach an audience beyond the technophiles.

But the Japanese manufacturers are not going on to copy the iPhone, the article predicts. They claim it is because “there is no Steve Jobs in this country…He has the power to unite the marketing and technology and business groups. Unfortunately, Japanese companies aren’t structured that way,” says Softbank’s senior executive vice president Tetsuzo Matsumoto.

Even though the mobile phone manufacturers are not shy of spending lavishly on R&D, the article claims that carriers would order their tech developers to create cutting-edge phones, despite spiraling costs.

Although Apple and SoftBank will not release sales figures for Japan, it is speculated that between 75,000 and 125,000 iPhones were sold in the past month, and that as many as 1 million could be sold by the end of this year. “They [Japan’s mobile industry] have been coddled in this market. The iPhone could be the trigger that forces them to make changes,” says Matsumoto.

But of course, as the article itself says, it is too early to talk about the iPhones impact. With no sales figures, and no response from other manufacturers, everything that the reports say now only boils down to simple speculation.

Business Week, Eye on Asia:

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when are you going to write your next blog? i cant wait ne

I've been out of Japan since early August and won't be back for another week so maybe things have changed since, but when I was there I saw new release 900 series phones from Sharp and (I think) Panasonic with 'swipe gesture' touchscreens, new PC-style internet interfaces (including Google homepage screenshots) and more. I believe these were in response to the iPhone's release. I guess unless at least one of the carriers decides that interface interaction is important, we won't really see more than the superficial 'innovations' so far seen.

And if Apple does sell 1 million iPhones by year's end, in the context of the "Galapagos Islands" Japanese keitai market - that has to be a significant achievement and certainly will provide Apple with a 'base' to expand upon when they inevitably release a wider model range in the future.