"Japan is a leading indicator of what will happen in other parts of the world as higher speed networks become available"
Q: What unique traits do you see in the Japanese market and do you have any unique services to address them?
For instance, the Japanese user doesn't use text or SMS at all whereas text and SMS is very common everywhere around the world. But the usage of e-mail here is very, very high. One thing we provide in the Japanese market, is searching via e-mail. People want to have a lightweight way of searching for information and we actually provide that using email. You don't even need to open a browser. Open an email client, enter a search query, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will email the responses to you with three results. It is also hyperlinked to our services to show you the results. So this is for people who might not be familiar with a browser so they can actually see the results quickly. If they want to see more, they only have to click and see the browser content.
In Japan, 25% of Internet usage happens on the phone. A lot of Japanese users tend to use their devices while commuting because using public transportation is a key part of their experience. These sort of cultural or social factors are not necessarily replicated everywhere else around the world.
However, factors such as the high penetration of the 3G network in this country and the availability of the 3G network means that people tend to use a lot of media-rich applications. So a lot of users here see TV on their phones. That's not as prevalent in many other parts around the world.
So to make a long story short, what we learn in Japan is 3G networks tend to promote a high usage of media-rich applications. And I see this as a leading indicator of what will happen in other parts of the world as higher speed networks become available, say, for example in parts of Europe as well as in the US.
In terms of cultural notions, the high usage of public transportation in Japan promotes certain types of services that will become less prevalent in the US, since people tend to use their phones when they are in their cars more than half the time. But in other markets such as India or China, where again the norm is more pubic transportation, as the markets grow, I expect them to follow a similar path to the Japanese market.
Q: What kind of activities does the Japanese R&D center undertake?
The Japanese R&D center is very much like all of our R&D centers around the world. We have one in Beijing and Bangalore and Sidney, Australia and London and Zurich and four different places in the US and so on. We treat all of our R&D centers in the same way, which is they build products that provide the maximum user value and the products can be global in nature. People in the R&D office in Tokyo can work on products that will be used everywhere in the world, and we also encourage them to build products for their local markets.
An example is the send-to-phone feature where you can do a local search on your PC and then send it via email to your phone. If you look for directions, you don't have to write it down on a card, you don't have to remember the map, you can send it to your phone by email. That was actually done as a joint development between our engineers in the Tokyo R&D center and engineers in California.