I went to work in a hurry yesterday, running late from blogging, not knowing what I was supposed to do that day other than I was supposed to be wearing a suit. I pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket after meeting with my accountant which told me I was supposed to go to the Tokyo International Forum center and meet Kenta. When I arrived, I was suddenly immersed in the i-mode of it all. It turns out that 5 of the i-mode council members were supposed to be on a panel to talk about how i-mode is changing society and where it goes next. It was the 4th anniversary of the launch of Docomo's i-mode, the widely popular Internet enabled phone.
Natsuno-san, who runs the i-mode project with the support of Enoki-san, his boss at Docomo, talked about the news phones including the new i-mode phone that will have fingerprint authentication built in. He also showed off flash running on the phones. The panel was short (1 hr for 5 people). I did get to admit to everyone that when Natsuno-san came to me with the idea that NTT Docomo would make an Internet phone over 4 years ago, I told him that I thought that there would be no way it would be successful. I thought that NTT would not embrace an open platform and that technically it was pretty sketchy. Well, I was wrong. NTT Docomo did, for maybe the first time in NTT history, embrace outside content providers and the sketchy technology turned out to be simple and much more easy for people to implement than WAP and took off.
There were about 2000 people, all content providers. Most making money. That's impressive. i-mode is probably one of the ONLY Internet platforms in the world where the content providers are actually making money from monthly fees from users rather than advertising.
The party was probably the most expensive-looking and BIG party I've been to since the bubble days. There were jugglers, guys on stilts playing huge saxaphones, lots and lots of food, plasma displays all over the place, art, etc. EVERYONE was there. Schmooze was in the air. The NTT Docomo exec team has special business cards printed for the event with special assistants following them around with a box of name cards as they went around and greeted their guests. Yup. Reminds you of the good old days. ;-p
All in all, it was a nice celebration for one of the few industries in the IT space doing well in Japan right now. For now...