MMW-98 -- Apple And Microsoft Make News With Mobile Music Deals

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

Issue No. 98
Wednesday, May 17, 2006



++ FEATURE: Apple And Microsoft Make News With Mobile Music Deals

** Oricon Starts Fixed-Period Mobile CD Download Service
** Ayaka Concert To Be Streamed Live on Mobile Phones
** DoCoMo to Release New 'High-Speed' HSDPA Handset
** Sony To Support iPod Sound Format
** New Research Paper Points to Increase in Online Music Sales
** Yamaha And KDDI Collaborate On Tokyo Band Summit

++ FEATURE: Apple And Microsoft Make News With Mobile Music Deals

On May 13, the "Nihon Keizai Shimbun" reported that Apple Computer and
Softbank were working together to develop the first 'iPod' mobile phone in
Japan and planned to release the device by the end of this year. According
to the report, this phone will be capable of downloading tracks directly
from iTunes Music Store, and would likely be jointly branded by
both companies. The article went on to say that Apple's Steve Jobs had
recently met with Masayoshi Son of Softbank, and the two companies were in
the final stages of negotiation regarding the new mobile phone.

Despite a lack of sources and very few details, the report was quickly
picked up and widely covered in the Japanese and foreign press over the
weekend. On Monday, Softbank issued a statement saying that the article
was purely speculative and that there had been no announcements regarding
the matter. Apple, in typical fashion, refused to comment.

Just two days earlier, Microsoft and NTT DoCoMo had announced their own
partnership whereby Microsoft is to provide software for DoCoMo's upcoming
music service, and DoCoMo will support Microsoft's WMA format in its 3G
phones. The upcoming music service will give users access to different
online music stores, with WMA tracks downloaded first to the
PC, then transferred to the phone.

As it happens, both the DoCoMo/Microsoft announcement and the
unsubstantiated Apple/Softbank report came less than a week before the
launch of KDDI's highly anticipated LISMO Music Store. All of this recent
press is no doubt calculated to take some of the attention away from KDDI
as it continues to widen its already considerable lead in mobile music
here. NTT DoCoMo in particular, still without a full-song service, has
been making a lot of noise in the press this past week about its upcoming
music-related services.

Still, it is the possibility of an Apple/Softbank alliance that has
industry insiders in Japan buzzing. It's only been a few months since
Softbank bought Vodafone, and the company appears to be moving
exceptionally quickly to revive the once-competitive carrier. Softbank
announced today that it will replace the Vodafone brand with its own and
is aggressively targeting the youth segment of Japan's mobile market. If
Softbank is indeed able to make the iPod phone a reality this year, it's
entirely possible that they could catapult themselves back into the race
with DoCoMo and KDDI, much as they did five years ago with their
'sha-mail' service.

Much will depend, however, on whether or not KDDI is able to maintain the
strong momentum it has right now with LISMO by successfully integrating
the new music store with the rest of its service. Even with all the other
recent news and rumors, this will be the story everyone watches.


** Oricon Starts Fixed-Period Mobile CD Download Service
In brief: Oricon announced on May 11 that it will begin a CD album
download service for mobile phones. Users will pay 300 yen to download all
tracks from a CD, which can be played for just one week before they
expire. The service will be offered through NTT DoCoMo's upcoming 'Music
Channel' service. Initially, it will only be available on one handset -
the FOMA N902iX HIGH-SPEED, which is scheduled for release in summer 2006.

** Ayaka Concert To Be Streamed Live on Mobile Phones
In brief: Ayaka, a popular Japanese singer-songwriter, announced last week
that one of her upcoming shows will be streamed live to mobile phones from
NTT DoCoMo, KDDI au, and Vodafone. The concert, which will be held on May
26 in Tokyo, is the final show of Ayaka's current tour. Immediately
afterward, one song from the concert will be made available
for full-song mobile download (chaku-uta full). Currently, there are an
estimated 43 million mobile customers in Japan with handsets capable of
receiving the streamed concert.

** DoCoMo to Release New 'High-Speed' HSDPA Handset
In brief: NTT DoCoMo announced on May 11 that a new FOMA handset from NEC
called 'N902iX HIGH-SPEED' will go on sale this summer. The new model is
the first in Japan to feature HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access),
which allows data transfer speeds of up to 3.6Mb/sec. This speed, roughly
10 times that of the current FOMA handsets, will allow customers to
receive rich media content such as music programs from the upcoming 'Music
Channel' service.

** Sony To Support iPod Sound Format
In brief: On May 9, Sony announced that software for their Walkman
portable music players will support the AAC music compression format used
by Apple on its popular iPod players. This will allow tracks downloaded
from iTunes to be forwarded and played on Walkman 'A-series' players with
hard drives.

** New Research Paper Points to Increase in Online Music Sales
In brief: On April 28, the RIAJ, JASRAC, and CPRA published the results of
joint research about the Japanese market for CDs, DVDs and online music
distribution. The report found that 63% of Japanese music consumers are
now aware of online distribution services, and that usage of the services
began increasing considerably after the entry into the market of
iTunes last August. The current percentage of consumers who use online
services is estimated at 6%, and the report said the number of online
users could triple over the coming year.

** Yamaha And KDDI Collaborate On Tokyo Band Summit
In brief: On June 1, Yamaha and KDDI will begin accepting online
applications from bands for participation in the Tokyo Band Summit, an
event for unsigned music groups. Participating bands must join an online
community where they post songs, vote, and communicate with other bands.
The highest rated bands will be invited to attend an open recording and a
live festival. The winning group will be invited to the Yamaha Asian Beat
2006 in Malaysia.
Subscribers: 4,867 as of May 16, 2006

Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (


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