JIN-140 -- On Cultural Diversity

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the week's business and technology news

Issue No. 140
Wednesday, July 18, 2001

+++ Viewpoint: On Cultural Diversity
+++ Noteworthy news
- Arcades to give points to registered cellphone-using visitors
- L-Mode gains 500 users per day
- NTT West and Toho to deliver movies to theaters via fiber
- KDDI to trial 100-Mbps fiber in March next year
- Japan No. 4 high-tech nation, U.N. study says


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On Cultural Diversity

It's interesting how often people overlook the ease-of-use factor.
In yet another conversation with puzzled Europeans trying to figure
out the browser phone explosion in Japan, our efforts to emphasize
ease of use as an important factor were consistently brushed aside.
Yet every tech product or service is one click away from success or
failure. One click too many and users will become annoyed and not
use a service; hence the "WAP is crap" disaster and all sorts of
problems for companies and indeed, in some cases, entire national
economies in Europe. Allow the user to accomplish a lot in just a
few clicks and you're providing a great product. Why is customer
service so easily overlooked by Western tech companies? The fact
that Japan showed the world a better way to approach wireless
devices tells us why "cultural biodiversity" -- having present
different cultures that respond in different ways to common problems
-- is good for the world. If Japan hadn't been around, the idea of
the browser phone as a useful information device probably would have
been completely discredited by the WAP disaster in Europe. You can
find all sorts of other examples where one country takes a different
approach for what comes down to cultural reasons and in the process
showing the world a way it wouldn't have otherwise looked at. So
next time you're traveling around the world and can't plug in your
laptop, get online, make a call, or figure out what dinner is, just
remember that cultual diversity has its upside as well.

-- Steve Mollman (steve@japaninc.com)


** Arcades to give points to registered cellphone-using visitors

Extract: Sega plans to introduce from August a system allowing
visitors to its video game arcades to register for a
point-collection scheme via cellphones with Net access. Once
registered, users will receive a unique barcode for storage in their
phone memory. The barcode will be read by sensors at the company's
arcades, allowing visitors to accumulate points giving them a
discount on games played. The system was developed in cooperation
with Tasnet, a Hiroshima startup. Sega will use member data for
market analysis. The company also plans to collaborate with
convenience store Lawson.

Commentary: This idea is really quite innovative, and it could be
applied to all kinds of areas. Users could get airline miles for
shopping at select partners. Just show your United Airlines barcode
on your cellphone display and the clerk will swipe it for you.
Registering for such point systems might become part of the sign-up
process of buying a new cellphone. Whether this will help Sega
arcades compete with the ever more fascinating home gaming consoles
and titles remains to be seen, however.


** L-Mode gains 500 users per day

Extract: An Internet connection service using fixed-line telephones,
called L-mode, won about 6,000 customers by July 12, just two weeks
after the start of service. L-mode was launched on June 29 jointly
by NTT East Corp. and NTT West Corp. At the present time, the number
of subscribers is increasing at the rate of 500 per day, they added.

Commentary: For more on why L-Mode might be a winner, see JIN No.
130 at


** NTT West and Toho to deliver movies to theaters via fiber

Extract: NTT West and Toho have jointly started high-speed delivery
of movie software to theaters through an optical-fiber network on an
experimental basis. The companies are conducting this experiment
with an aim to establish a new model of delivering movie software in
the broadband age. For this experiment, they are using NTT West's
"optical-fiber access line," which enables a maximum transmission
speed of 1Gbps. The movie delivered to the theaters is "Spirited
Away," which will be released in Toho's movie theaters for foreign
films starting July 20.

Commentary: The funny thing about broadband is that speeds fast
enough to let users download movies in milliseconds have been around
for some time. Just look at the various MANs (metropolitan area
networks) around the world. But those speeds are so expensive that
only corporations backing up data have used them so far. This
experiment puts such speed to another, more creative use: delivering
and showing movies in theaters, which have the economies of scale to
make this a business idea with merit.


** KDDI to trial 100-Mbps fiber in March next year

Extract: Telecom carrier KDDI Corp. will begin a six-month trial
service of broadband optical fiber networks in March that will be
available to 300 households in Tokyo and another 200 in Toyoda,
Aichi Prefecture. The nation's No. 2 telecommunications group will
offer on-demand video streaming, music downloads, videoconferencing,
Internet telephony and home security service on the 100
megabits-per-second network.

Commentary: What, not until next year? NTT and Usen have a
significant head start, and whether innovator Usen can survive an
NTT march into this arena is a question mark. In any case, look for
100-Mbps fiber-based Net access to become increasingly prevalent in
Japan, primarily in urban areas, over the next five years.


** Japan No. 4 high-tech nation, U.N. study says

Extract: The United Nations Development Program says four Asia
nations make its top 10 list of the world's leading high-tech
nations. U.N. researchers ranked nations based on the number of
Internet hosts, the number of patents granted, the level of
technology exports, diffusion of electricity and telecoms, and
college education ratios. Japan ranked fourth in the world, held
back by a low score on Internet hosts, 49 per thousand people. The
nation scored very highly on the number of patents granted (994 per
million people) but poorly in the number of Internet hosts (49 per
thousand people). Korea and Japan were the only Asia nations with
patents even approaching the U.S. level, showing both countries have
crossed the gap between nations that innovate and nations that
merely manufacture.

Commentary: Interesting that last bit: crossed the gap between
nations that innovate and nations that merely manufacture. Japan
has certainly done that, but individual innovators are still getting
a raw deal in this country. See our July cover story. Also
interesting that Japan has the highest score on patents per million
people. See http://www.undp.org.

or http://www.thestandard.com/article/0,1902,27861,00.html


** Net Communication 2001 In Korea & Japan-Korea and Japan
Cultural/IT Industrial Business Fair- Tokyo International Forum,
Exhibition Hall 2, Tokyo, Japan (July 25, 2001-July 26, 2001)

This event will be a good opportunities to encounter very promising
Korean and Japanese cultural/IT companies in increasingly noteworthy
broadband business, the theme being "eCooperation between Korean and
Japanese Cultural/IT Companies In the Broadband Era." Sponsored by
Korean Government (Ministry of Foreign Affair and Trade/Ministry of
Culture and Tourism), about 40 Korean companies and 10 Japanese
companies are to be presented. During this exhibition, there will be
seminars of speakers who have been taking active parts in this
sphere. Please visit the official site for more details and
registration in advance. For more information visit
http://www.bi-net.co.jp/netcom2001/, or contact

* iLocus Show, the Biggest IP Telephony Trade Show, Hong Kong

Scheduled to be held on 31 July - 3 Aug 2001, iLocus Show (Asia
2001) which is the biggest IP telephony trade show in Asia, will
build on the success of the previous year's event. The show will be
a mixed exhibition and conference and will be devoted entirely to
the IP telephony industry, offering the best opportunities to
network with the right people in the industry in Asia. There will be
some 30 exhibitors and over 100 speakers at the event.

For further information, access http://www.ilocus.com/asia2001.htm,
email asia2001@ilocus.com, or call +852-2413-0918.


Written by Steve Mollman (steve@japaninc.net)
Assistance with news compilation:
Richard Ochero (richard@japaninc.com)

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