Business Break

By Greg Lane

iPhoneIPhone touches down
Big news of late was the announcement in June by SoftBank that it will be bringing Apple’s iPhone to Japan later this year. With the wild popularity of the iPod in Japan, there is bound to be a big rush on the phones when they come out. It will be interesting to see if this can be sustained beyond the initial spurt. TV reports in Japan have focused on the difficulty of entering text via the touch-screen interface. One of the first challenges for Apple to overcome will be making it easy for users to enter Japanese text. Despite all the bells and whistles, email is still the ‘killer app’ on cell phones in Japan.

Xenesys Inc. Logo
A promising method of clean power generation called ‘Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion’ (OTEC) received a boost when Hyogo Prefecture-based Xenesys received a ¥2 billion order for a power plant from the Kuwait National Petroleum company. Working closely with Saga and Kobe Universities, Xenesys has made major efficiency improvements which are making this generation method first dreamed up more than 120 years ago a viable alternative for generating clean energy. OTEC uses differences in temperature between surface water and water at a depth of up to 1,000 meters to vaporize ammonia and drive a turbine.

SunNew indoor lighting source: the sun
Tech blog Digital World Tokyo reports that two Japanese companies are utilizing 19th-century technology to provide environmentally friendly lighting for 21st-century buildings. Ishikawa Optics & Arts and Inosyo have both developed technology to use the rays of the sun to light up the interiors of office towers. Inosyo’s system uses a combination of a roof-top skylight and mirrors to deliver light to different rooms in the building. Ishikawa’s system uses onecentimeter glass prisms sandwiched between glass plates to bend light into rooms.

Facebook LogoSocial Networking goliath Facebook finally got around to releasing a Japanese version of the site in May. The launch was marked by a one day visit to Japan by CEO Marc Zuckerberg on May 20. It remains to be seen if just releasing a Japanese version will be enough to have any impact on Japan market leader Mixi. One of the biggest problems may be that the culture of Facebook (and other SNSs such as LinkedIn) encourages the use of real names rather than pseudonyms. In contrast, users on Mixi and user bulletin board 2Channel use pseudonyms as a matter of course.

Brightcove Logo
Internet TV platform Brightcove announced the formation of a Japanese subsidiary, Brightcove KK. The new venture will be formed with US$5million in funding from big local players Dentsu, J-Stream (the biggest content delivery network in Japan), Cyber Communications (the biggest online ad network in Japan), and existing Brightcove investor Transcosmos. Brightcove, which counts CBS, Fox, HBO, SkySports and the Discovery Channel amongst its customers will be looking to help the big Japanese broadcasters to monetize its online video content. JI

IPO Logo

IPO Report

The big news on the IPO front is actually that there is no news. April and May saw just two IPOs with prospects for summer not looking much healthier. Postlisting performance by recent IPOs has been mixed, but this doesn’t seem sufficient to explain the complete drop-off. A survey of experts by the Nikkei earlier this year showed 40% were expecting as many or more than the 121 IPOs in 2007. If things continue as they are, this may be halved for 2008.

If you have any news on new business, tech, start-ups or spin-offs, please contact Greg Lane at