MMW-01 -- Super Ringtones Set to Invade Europe

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on the week's music technology news

Issue No. 1
Tuesday, January 15, 2002


++ From the Editor: Welcome!
++ Feature: Super Ringtones Set to Invade Europe
++ Noteworthy News
- Giga Networks Announces 2001 Ringtone Rankings
- Rohm Unveils 32-Voice Sound Chip For Cellphones
- Seagrand Markets Cassette/MP3/WMA Player
- Matsushita Releases CD-RW/DVD-ROM Drive

++ FROM THE EDITOR: Welcome!

Welcome to the very first issue of Music Media Watch! In this brand
new addition to J@pan Inc's collection of weekly newsletters, I'll be
providing a bit of news and commentary on the major developments in
Japan's fascinating and fast-moving music media industry.

It has only been in the past year that I've started to see the term
'music media' used widely in the news. Put simply, music media
encompasses all matters pertaining to the creation, recording and
distribution of music, with particular emphasis on the tools and
technology used to accomplish these tasks. Topics such as Napster,
MP3, MIDI sequencers, music education software and of course the
ubiquitous ringtones all fall under the 'music media' umbrella.

If you combine a love of music with an interest in technology or
Japan, this newsletter is for you. In the 'Feature' section each
week, I'll be sharing my own personal experiences and opinions about
different facets of Japanese music technology. Please feel free to
drop me a line anytime with your own opinions and suggestions. So
far, all indications are that 2002 is going to be an even more
incredible year than the last one for Japanese music media followers.
So without further adieu, let's get this thing started...

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"Japan gadget envy" that develop -- in many cases the products you'll
read about are available only on these shores.

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++ FEATURE: Super Ringtones Set to Invade Europe

With NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service set to make its European debut this
year, many Japanese ringtone content providers are scrambling to get
their services up and running on the new platform. A few ringtone
providers began actual testing of their services late last year at
carrier companies in Germany and the Netherlands.

Because my team (Theta) here at Layer-8 Technologies has been
involved with the development of Yamaha's European ringtone site, I
had the opportunity last month to go and test our work on the nascent
European i-mode platform. These tests were conducted at the offices
of two carriers: E-Plus in Dusseldorf, Germany, and KPN in Groningen,

One of the first things we noticed is that there are some subtle but
important differences in the platforms between Europe and Japan, and
also between Germany and the Netherlands. Many Japanese ringtone
providers will likely need to tweak their services slightly for each
location. Currently, the service is open to a limited number of
'friendly users,' who will test and provide feedback through the end
of February. The official European i-mode launch is slated for this
spring in both Germany and the Netherlands.

While in Europe, I was also struck by the size and prominence of the
overall market for ringtone downloads, despite the fact that nearly
all of the ringtones are single-tone melodies like those heard on
Japanese phones in the late 90s. Along with a few of the other large
Japanese providers, Yamaha will be one of the first to launch a
16-voice polyphonic ringtone service, called 'Yamaha Super Ringtones'
for both Germany and the Netherlands. NEC will be providing the first
phone in Europe capable of playing these songs.

In addition to getting their services ready to launch, the ringtone
providers are also jockeying for position on the European i-mode
menu. As the Japanese ringtone providers have already learned, the
simple act of positioning a service a few slots up or down in the
menu can translate into a difference of literally millions of dollars
over time. There is tremendous value in being listed on the first
page of services, and still greater value in being listed at the very
top. Ultimately, it is down to the carrier to determine the menu
positions, and you can bet that E-Plus and KPN executives are being
treated with the utmost courtesy and respect by visiting Japanese
ringtone service providers.

In any case, it will be highly interesting to see the effect of the
ringtone service in Europe jumping suddenly from single-tone to
16-voice. How quickly will European handset makers follow suit in
releasing 16-voice phones? Will the sound quality be as big of a
selling point in Europe as it has been in Japan? Which ringtone
service will be listed at the top of the i-mode menu? Just how big is
the European ringtone market, anyway?

Stay tuned...

-- Steve Myers

Yamaha's new release, with screenshot of the Super Ringtones site
(developed by Layer-8 Technologies' Theta Team):

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Giga Networks Announces 2001 Ringtone Rankings

One advantage of being listed at the top of the i-mode menu for
ringtone download services is that when you announce your annual
ringtone rankings, people tend to sit up and take notice. With over
4.6 million registered subscribers, Giga Networks is the first and
one of the largest ringtone providers in Japan. Last week, the
company announced its list of the top ringtones by category. Not
surprisingly, the most downloaded ringtone of 2001 was Keisuke
Kuwata's "Johny the Surfer," which was featured in a Coca-cola
advertising campaign. Other winners included Ayumi Hamasaki (most
downloaded artist) and Mariah Carey (most downloaded foreign artist).

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Rohm Unveils 32-Voice Sound Chip For Cellphones

Rohm has released the BU8788KN, a sound generation chip for cellphone
use that is capable of 32-voice polyphony. The chip is also capaple
of playing ADPCM data. The announcement comes close on the heels of
Yamaha's release last December of the YMU762, a sound chip capable of
playing 40 tones simultaneously.

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Seagrand Markets Cassette-Shaped MP3/WMA Player

Seagrand is marketing "RAVEMETAL," a digital-audio player compatible
with MP3 and WMA that is shaped like a cassette tape. Users can play
MP3 and WMA files stored on the player using headphones or by
inserting the unit into a cassette player. Audio recording is also
possible using a built-in microphone.

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Matsushita Releases CD-RW/DVD-ROM Drive

Matsushita Electric Industrial and Matsushita-Kotobuki Electronics
Industries announced the release of a combination CD-R/RW and DVD-ROM
drive, which allows users to duplicate CD-ROMs without using a PC.
The drive is a fixed 2x for music CDs on fixed mode and maximum 4x
for music CDs on variable mode. The DVD-ROM drive reads at a maximum
6x and the CD-R/RW has a maximum writing speed of 8x.

SUBSCRIBERS: 74 as of January 15, 2002

Written by Steve Myers (
Edited by J@pan Inc editorial team (

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