Japan's Mobile Tech Too Quirky To Succeed Overseas?

Dianne See Morrison
Tuesday, August 19, 2008; 6:00 AM

For all of the cutting edge mobile technology that Japanese consumers have routine access to, surprisingly little of it has made its way outside of the country. Its government, however, wants to change this, and will begin an "aggressive push" to market the technology overseas, reports AP.

One of the big questions, however, is how much of the country's technology can be exported. In Japan, it's common to have high-speed access to the web, to watch and record TV broadcasts, and to pay using a mobile phone. But as Masayuki Ito, official at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications acknowledged, "Some critics say Japanese mobile technology tends to be quirky like the Galapagos Islands," that is, the country's isolation has given it very domestic-specific technology.

One of the products Japan hopes to flog is the technology behind the FeliCa wallet phone, which debuted in 2004, and is now a standard feature in most Japanese handsets. Instead of a smart card, which is how most popular mobile phone payments work in Europe, a tiny chip called FeliCa, partly developed by Sony Corp ( NYSE: SNE). is embedded into the phone. Some analysts believe, however, that the success of mobile payments in Japan is down to low credit card use in the country, as well as the popularity of convenience stores and vending machines.

Still, there's little choice for Japanese carriers and manufacturers, who are backing the government initiative. The new campaign comes at a time when the saturated domestic handset market has begun to decline, hurt by carriers who have cut phone subsidies in favor of lower tariffs and better service, and by increasing consumer fatigue over more complex technology.


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