Daniel Eran Dilger
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Apple’s .Mac Mail Opened to NTT DoCoMo’s FOMA Phones

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Daniel Eran Dilger
Akihabara News reported today that “NTT DoCoMo will launch in Japan next month the ConnectMail service which will allow you to receive and send @mac.com email as well as the usual @docomo.ne.jp.”


Get your .Mac email on your Foma DoCoMo mobile phone. : Akihabara News .com

In reality, DoCoMo, Japan’s largest mobile provider and the likely frontrunner for the iPhone in Japan, doesn’t actually operate ConnectMail, which reader Andrew Sheppard pointed out is an independent service run by Japan Communications.

Currently, DoCoMo FOMA mobile subscribers can only access email using accounts in the @docomo.ne.jp domain. Accessing other email accounts requires paying extra for a relay service such as ConnectMail, or paying extra for email gateway services from DoCoMo.

Sheppard reports, “NTT DoCoMo does offer a service to receive e-mail from other accounts for a fee of several hundred yen (several dollars) per month. People who use this service can never concentrate in meetings because they are always checking their email, mostly deleting spam. Then they have to call everyone who sent them attachments, because the service records the message as read, and therefore deletes the message together with any attached files, but does not of course forward big file attachments to the mobile phone.”

In the US, Apple designed the iPhone to access email from any standard POP or IMAP email account, and most other handsets can also check email from any account. The iPhone is fairly unique in being able to download and view many common attachments, from graphics to Office documents to PDF.

コネクトメール .Macメール対応版

Big In Japan.
However, the idea behind the new .Mac email relay service is notable for a couple reasons. First, the service wouldn’t be offered unless there was a significant demand for .Mac email access in Japan. Apple’s latest quarterly results indicate the company is making big waves in the country, both with the new iMac and the iPod Touch.

If it’s selling enough .Mac subscriptions to create a market for email relay services, that’s big news for a region that has been rough on PC makers over the last several quarters.

Apple also appears to have targeted the Japanese market with the MacBook Air, and has already begun marketing its new ultra thin laptop to that region. Clearly, Apple has big plans for Japan.

iPhone in Japan.
There is also keen interest in the iPhone, although no mobile providers in Japan service GSM phone sets, making it currently unusable in Japan even if unlocked from AT&T. In order to bring the iPhone to the country, Apple will have to either develop a custom phone or produce the 3G UMTS rumored for release in the second half of the year.

UMTS is the 3G of GSM providers, and DoCoMo’s FOMA is largely compatible with the UMTS standards. UTMS phones from regions where UMTS is common, such as Europe, should work in Japan. However, in order to work on both AT&T’s UMTS in the US as well as Europe’s UMTS and the Japanese FOMA network, the 3G iPhone will need to bridge both the frequencies used in the US as well as those used in the EU and Japan.

Such a UMTS world phone is a likely target for Apple, which has historically preferred to deliver a single model of its products which can be sold internationally. Last fall, the company did just that in releasing the US iPhone in Europe, a move analysts insisted wouldn’t happen and wouldn’t work because of the broad awareness and availability of 3G networks in the EU.

International iPhone: Europe, Japan and 3G UMTS
Readers Write: the iPhone in Asia, iTunes OTA, and a CueCat?

What do you think? I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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  • elppa

    I honestly think when Apple look back they won’t view the iPhone Europe launch as a really big success.

    3G is needed in Europe every bit as much as Japan. In fact I think they are holding off release in Italy and Spain for this very reason.

    That video was very good. I don’t know much Japanese, but I’m sure none of the presenters are intending on buying an Asus EeePC as their next laptop. All three were well and truly taken by the charm of multi-touch.

    It also shows why people should think outside the box a little more. No-one (until now) has pointed out the Air will be big in the Japanese market. Now you have made the point it is very obvious.

  • daniel.lucas

    Interesting news. Sounds like an Asian iPhone isn’t too far off.

  • roz

    That video about the Air is hysterical.

  • ickoonite

    I must confess I had my doubts about the Air – Apple’s first “fashion” product, i.e. one favouring form over function, since the Cube, perhaps. But seeing this makes me realise they will sell a boatload in Japan. Women particularly will love it – the women in the video are cooing over it and commenting on how nicely it would fit in one’s bag. And, of course, the multi-touch is beautiful.

    On the subject of the iPhone, I too think that the European launch has been disappointing. I think that American Apple devotees are too willing to overlook the lack of 3G – if you haven’t used it, you don’t know how good it is. A 3.5G iPhone would be absolutely awesome (I myself have a 3.5G Nokia phone, whose interface I loathe but whose speed I adore. I would drop it in an instant for a 3.5G iPhone).

    What Apple therefore needs to do is think beyond America, as the parlous state of the States’ mobile phone networks will only hold it back. With the MacBook Air – a surefire Japanese hit, as we see – it might be a sign that the company is willing and able to do this. If they do, Europe…and Japan…will thank them for it.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    I think its a pretty forgone conclusion that Apple is working to get a 3G iPhone out as soon as possible. What is interesting is how the company has been able to dance around a significant limitation by delivering everything else that much better. As has been pointed out before, the iPhone can render web pages faster over the slow EDGE than many 3G phones can with a serious speed advantage.

    The fact that Apple is clearly aware of international markets also lends hope that it has world products in mind and isn’t content sitting in the US market.

    Another interesting comparison involves Microsoft (doesn’t it always?): look how difficult it has been to get the Xbox to sell in Japan. Of course, that has a lot to do with cultural gaming differences, but Apple doesn’t face those barriers with the Touch, Air, and the iPhone when its ready. Since there’s nothing really like the Touch right now, Apple has a wide open market to harvest, and competitors will have a long road to run down in order to catch up.

  • http://web.mac.com/lowededwookie lowededwookie

    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/07/12/06/report_iphone_outpacing_rivals_in_europe_without_3g.html

    Yep, the iPhone is a flop in Europe. ;)

    I wouldn’t say 3G is NEEDED in Europe. Admittedly we here in New Zealand who do have a 3G network in Vodafone haven’t really got any services that are reliant on 3G except video calling but I’ve made a grand total of 1 video call on my 3G Ericsson.

  • ickoonite

    Off the top of my head, I can think of three good reasons why the XBox has failed in Japan: one, lack of the games that people want; two, the original XBox’s size (the controllers particularly were too big for Japanese hands); and three, an element of nationalism. Of course, the nationalist element probably also fuels the lack of games – Japanese developers probably favour Japanese consoles. Keep it in the family, you know…

    On the iPhone front, you can talk it up as much as you like – and note that I did not call it a flop per se – but in the end, I think it would be mistaken to suggest that it has been some runaway success (i.e. success commensurate with the revolutionary brilliance of its interface). To dismiss 3G as only good for video calling reveals only a lack of understanding of its significance – it is precisely devices like the iPhone, which make mobile web browsing a pleasure, that would stand to benefit most from 3G (or 3.5G) connectivity.

  • lmasanti

    This announcement on “.Mac Mail” is, IMO, the right answer to the right spot that Apple is targeting.

    Can they assault Japan with the iPhone?
    Not with this model.

    So, what? Develop a new model? Maybe.

    But Apple also has the iPod touch, and now the Air…
    Full wifi connectors to the world! What they needed? A connection to the mail!

    I think they said: “What opportunities do we have with what we have?”

    “Think Different” all the way arround!

  • Sapporo Guy

    Loved the comment “It’s lighter than my cosmetics pouch!”

    Japanese TV coo’s over everything.

    This was shown in the morning so that means a lot of business men, retired folks, and maybe some housewives that weren’t too busy with their kids will have seen this. This program has a large view audience.

    From the start I had figured that the air was aimed more likely at the J market than the US. I love how they used pictures instead of something else. The marketing gurus got their stuff right on this one!

    Motorola and Docomo make worldwide phones. I have the razor (whatever) and brought it back to the US with me recently. No problems jumping the puddle and having service with my Docomo carrier. So what is the deal with Apple?

    The key to the J market will be: cost, cost, cost and then keyboard input.
    My Softbank (aka vodaphone) phone now offers free calling to yahooBB landlines. My current plan is US$10 for unlimited calling to other softbank phones, unlimited SMS (text messaging) and fair rates to other carriers.

    The service has been dependable and at times better recpetion than my Docomo FOMA.

    Cost — have to figure in the biggest user block. High school kids ~ University kids. They grew up with phones in their hands. So, outrageous rates will spread like wildfire.

    keyboard — so many people have grown accustomed to one thumb input that this is going to be a huge hurdle. Character recognition is pretty decent now and typing in Japanese can be quite fast. lolo, sometimes faster than in English!

    One last comment: high school kids are not talking about the iphone….

  • http://forums.gamebunker.com Llydis

    Off the top of my head, I can think of three good reasons why the XBox has failed in Japan: one, lack of the games that people want; two, the original XBox’s size (the controllers particularly were too big for Japanese hands); and three, an element of nationalism. Of course, the nationalist element probably also fuels the lack of games – Japanese developers probably favour Japanese consoles. Keep it in the family, you know…”

    1: That’s partly true, although Xbox360 in Japan has had a stronger push for Japanese development, it still isn’t selling compared to the Wii or PS3 even. There’s probably a couple of reasons for that other than the lack of games. Reliability is a factor, as we all know there is a huge lack of reliability for earlier models of Xbox360. That, you’re more likely to get the same games on a cheaper system anyway. It also isn’t home to the big names, like Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, Nintendo in general… The list goes on. Not even Hironobu Sakaguchi can save the system in Japan.

    2: Part true. The original Xbox was a monster compared to the more compact and applicable to a home entertainment setup PS2. Xbox didn’t even do DVD out of the box, and that was at a time when DVD players were more expensive over there(well video prices in general are expensive in Japan.) But, they had a totally redesigned controller for the Japanese launch that became the base for the USA’s Controller S.

    3: I don’t think fervent nationalism is a good excuse for it failing. It failed because it really couldn’t compete and Microsoft really failed at marketting to the Japanese(Japanese people don’t like playing FPS games in general) and turned off the niche western gaming culture over there by trying to Japanify game titles. It seemed more like a confused product, possibly. Again it also wasn’t the home of any real system selling big name titles for the Japanese market.

    It’s a bit more complicated than it seems. Wii and DS are doing really great in the Japanese market right now because they offer games that are easy to get into, but the DS over there is a cultural phenomenon. Not only does the DS offer the games a typical Japanese gamer might enjoy, but it also offers titles a Japanese girl, businessman, house wife or grandma and grandpa would enjoy with the Touch Generations titles. Not to mention, DS is getting Dragon Quest IX, and already has Pokemon.

    The Wii is another issue altogether, it’s small and sleek. But, it also offers something new for a family to enjoy.

    Don’t take this the wrong way, I own all 3 systems now with the 360 the console I own the most games for in this current gen. But, Microsoft didn’t exactly offer anything new or interesting to the Japanese market.

    As far as I know, Apple does well in Japan with their computers and iPods. But, the Macbook Air could be something that everyone would want because Japan is a pretty mobile culture. Although, iPhone would have to offer something new to Japan that the service providers haven’t already offered. Because of the structure of the mobile networks in Japan, they do offer features that would seem new to us if introduced tomorrow(mobile phone game business over there, compared to America, is a bigger business.)

  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    Daniel, thanks for inserting that YouTube clip of the TV show in Japan. Without knowing a word of Japanese I could tell how excited the presenters were. As for how the gestures didn’t work at first, I can remember having teh same trouble doing them myself at MWSF last week. I think the whole segment was a darn good show for Apple.

    @Sapporo Guy: Thanks for your comments WRT the J market as well. I think that Apple could indeed do well there as the whole Apple ethic seems to be more in tune with the Japanese than, say M$ with its obvious clunk.

  • http://www.wynter.co.nz wynter

    @ #6 lowededwookie:

    Having also had the New Zealand 3G experience with an N70 and followed by Vodafone UK 3G followed by iPhone on the EDGE network I’m definately inclined to think that 3G for mobile phones is mostly marketing blag.

    My real life experiences in both countries were shoddy and expensive on 3G using rubbish 3rd party software. The network was so slow I would connect to my POP mail and download only the headers. More than that and it would just timeout.

    My iPhone on EDGE on the other hand just works. And then only really needs to work when Im travelling between wifi spots. No, its not the fastest for sure, but the difference between grabbing my phone from my pocket to find an email has been recieved as opposed getting much faster “error messages” cannot be understated if people want to talk about speed.

    I was surprised that the MacBook Air is not the first 3G (or greater) capable device given that its requirements for transferring files that need throughput rather than low latency would probably have made it a much better candidate for the type of connection of 3G.

    You can tell I’m no tech head – Im just a user that having had real world experience trying to use mobile devices on various cellular network – and Im bemused by the “3G is king” commentary.

  • jerome

    I agree with Llydis. The XBox is unreliable and japanese don’t buy unreliable product. Also, most of the XBox’s games are FPS and Japanese think these games are plain boring/stupid. The nationalism excuse work for USA more than Japan. If the XBox (with all its flaws) was Japanese or European, do you think it will sell so much in the USA? Yeah, I know it doesn’t sell much but I think it would be far worst if the console wasn’t an American product.

  • http://forums.gamebunker.com Llydis

    If this blog post is to be believed(http://www.8bitjoystick.com/archives/jake_inside_source_reveal_the_truth_about_xbox_360_red_ring_of_death_failures.php) then Microsoft knowingly released the Xbox360 with a high failure rate for a product launch instead of letting it bake for a few more months.

    I wouldn’t doubt the validity of the source, Jake has some pretty good sources.

  • solipsism

    Elppa wrote, “I honestly think when Apple look back they won’t view the iPhone Europe launch as a really big success.”

    Not like the US, but wait until a 3G model arrives. At least there are Europeans that can now get the iPhone and Apple will have sold an extra .5-1M extra iPhones it wouldnt’ have sold had it waited until a 3G model was perfected.

    The recent statement by Jobs, apparently, stating that they didn’t add 3G to the Air as to lock a customer into one vendor sounds like rubbish. There are already 2M+ customers using the Air on AT&T’s network. The lack of 3G on the Air, for me, is the only thing it is lacking. Everything else is a welcome dismissal.

    I am disappointed that the recent journalist reviews of the Air are claiming considerably less time than 5 hours. And I hope there is an external battery w/ power pass-through to be released soon. Otherwise I won’t be buying one.

  • solipsism

    @ Tod,

    I think she had trouble with the gestures because of the odd angles she was trying to perform them.

  • Sapporo Guy

    How aobut her finger nails ;)