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Competition is intensifying over smartphones. KDDI enters into the race targeted at business firms

9, 19. 2008

   Competition is being intensified over the marketing of the high-performance mobile terminals called "smartphones", ordinary mobile phones attached with keyboards and touch panels for advanced capabilities. The sales race started when Willcom, Ltd. began to sell its terminals. Other companies followed suit with similar terminals, and KDDI Corp., which has been dragging its foot, finally announced that it will join the others in the competition targeted at business firms. SoftBank Mobile Corp., which is said to have hit the ceiling with its iPhones, began renting the terminals to corporations. The companies are now thus involved in the fierce competition targeted at business firms.

Forecast to reach 6.31 million units in 2010

The E30HT made by HTC, announced to be sold by KDDI
The E30HT made by HTC, announced to be sold by KDDI

   In Japan, Willcom started selling the "W-ZERO3" terminals at the end of 2005. Because of their similarity to PCs in handling, the terminals were soon widely accepted. The market is firmly expanding as other companies entered the competition. According to a study conducted by the research and consulting company Roa Group, the domestic shipments of smartphones totaled 620,000 units in 2006. The shipments are forecast to reach 6.31 million units in 2010, accounting for a 13% share of the mobile phone market.

   The smartphone operators are placing emphasis especially on offering services to corporations.

   Among the companies, NTT DoCoMo, Inc. started selling in September 2006 the "BlackBerry" smartphones made by Research In Motion (RIM) of Canada to business firms. These smartphones are said to be popularly used in North America as they are already used by 16 million people there. NTT DoCoMo would not disclose how many units of the phones have been sold in Japan. It is said, however, 20,000 units have been sold mainly to foreign-invested companies. Because of the popularity, the sales began also for individuals on Aug. 1, 2008.

   The iPhones, which attracted the attention of the public nationwide when SoftBank Mobile started selling on July 11, 2008, are also a type of smartphone. The company made a good start for the selling, but two months later many people began to say the company had become "out of breath". Masayoshi Son, President and CEO of SoftBank Mobile, hinted at a decline in the sale of the iPhones by saying at the time of the company's announcement of its account settlement on Aug. 5:

"The sale made a satisfactory start. But it was found out one month later that they were mostly sold only to heavy users."

KDDI makes moves to release mobile terminals in the spring of 2009

   SoftBank Mobile held an event on Sept. 9, 2008 for representatives from companies which have deals with SoftBank Mobile. The company then announced that it would loan up to five units of iPhones for three months free of charge to each of business firms in an effort to lever up corporate demand for the iPhones. Son attended the by himself to demonstrate how to use the iPhone in business scenes.

   KDDI, which has hitherto been reluctant to enter the smartphone market on the ground that the need for such phones is still not known, announced on Sept. 11, 2008 that it will start selling smartphones to corporations. The company will sell the "E30HT" smartphones made by HTC (Taiwan), which specializes in smartphones. The smartphones made by HTC are already being sold in Japan by NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank Mobile and EMBILE Ltd.

   A person in charge of the public relations at KDDI explained about the company's entering into the smartphone market:

"It has been found out that there are certain needs in the market for use by corporations, such as concluding ties with solution business."

   He thus indicated that there definitely is a market regarding the smartphones for use by corporations. He showed a cautious stance about the market for individual use by saying:

"The good sale of the iPhones was like a 'momentary wind speed'. Demand for individual use is still unpredictable."

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