The Japanese Bluetooth® Markets

Apr 24
2009
Eric Kaplan

Eric Kaplan

Eric Kaplan Bio

April 23, 2009
I arrived in Japan thirteen days ago. I came to visit customers and to attend the annual Bluetooth All Hands Meeting that was held in Tokyo yesterday and today. I’ve been coming to Japan about twice a year for the last seven years to demonstrate Frontline’s (www.fte.com) protocol analyzer products and discuss Bluetooth, ZigBee, and other communication technologies. Typically I come for about two weeks and spend a few days in the Osaka region and the rest of the time in the Tokyo area. These are usually very interesting visits because I meet with a wide range of companies.

The companies range from large mobile network operators to companies whose names are not well known to the public but who make many of the components that you would find inside your electronic products and cars if you were to slice them open and take a close look at how the electronics are put together. It’s always exciting for me to walk into the lobbies of consumer electronic companies such as Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, and Toshiba and see the displays where they show off the products they are most proud of. Tuesday, one of my meetings was with a watchmaker, a company whose products I’ve been using for about 35 years.

Visiting these companies is a great way for me to gain insights into what is really going on because most of my discussions are with software and hardware development engineers—the people actually building the products that many of us will buy since Japan exports so much of the world’s electronic products and cars. What’s also important about the Japanese market is that it is really two markets: The first is the Japanese domestic market, which, of course, is huge; the second is the world market that Japan exports to. And sometimes these are two very different markets. For example, Japanese companies make many mobile phones that are exported to Europe, and because of this many of these phones are Bluetooth-enabled since Bluetooth technology is so widely accepted in Europe. However, until recently, some mobile network operators in Japan were not strong Bluetooth advocates, so a large majority of the phones sold in Japan in recent years have not been Bluetooth-enabled. In fact, this very topic today was prominently discussed at the All Hands Meeting. Today’s keynote speaker was from NTT DoCoMo, and he explained that because so many people in Japan use mobile phones on public transportation that it is not generally not acceptable to speak aloud on the devices because the noise level from so many phone conversations would be too high. Therefore, from NTT DoCoMo’s viewpoint there was not a good market for Bluetooth headsets, which in turn implied that there wasn’t much point in Bluetooth-enabling most mobile phones. Now, with new applications on phones that will use Bluetooth technology in different ways, this is changing. For example, Bluetooth headsets are a great way for Japanese commuters to hear the audio on the TV being broadcast to their mobile phones. So, now instead of maybe one of ten mobile models sold by NTT DoCoMo being Bluetooth-enabled, the number will be more like seven of ten.

My visits here in Japan, from the customers’ point of view, typically serve one or two functions. They tell me how they want Frontline to improve our products and they look to me to bring them information about the latest communication technology. They understand that because Frontline plays a leadership role in Bluetooth that we keep up with the specifications and have a pretty good idea what is important to companies around the world.

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