Fujitsu Chairman Sees Japan Leading Mobile Net Era

TAIPEI (06/14/2000) - Despite its relatively slow start in the PC-based Internet era, Japan has a good chance of becoming a leader in the next phase of the Internet, due to its first-mover advantage in mobility, Fujitsu Ltd.

Chairman Tadashi Sekizawa said Tuesday in a speech here at the World Congress on Information Technology.

"The Internet today is at the dawn of a new age," Sekizawa said. "The next phase will be the mobile Internet."

Noting that just as the U.S.-led PC-based Internet gave birth to the "new economy" in that country, Sekizawa said Japan can benefit greatly from taking the lead into the mobile Internet era.

Reflected in Sekizawa's speech was the Japanese IT industry's newfound confidence in the aftermath of wireless operator NTT DoCoMo Inc.'s successful rollout of the I-mode mobile Internet service. The largest of its kind in the world, I-mode boasts more than 7 million subscribers. [See "NTT DoCoMo I-mode Subscriptions Hit 7 Million," May 30.]By 2003, in addition to 50 million mobile computers, there will be 80 million mobile phones in use in Japan, most of which will be able to access the Internet, Sekizawa predicted. "In Japan, nearly all mobile phones are digital, compared to only around 30 percent in the U.S.," he noted.

Japan is also a leader in notebook PC usage, according to Sekizawa. In Japan, notebook PCs make up 50 percent of the installed PC base, he said, as compared to 20 percent in the U.S.

Although the PC is likely to continue to be the main actor in Internet access, new devices and systems will attract a lot of attention, Sekizawa said. In addition to mobile phones and notebook PCs, users will also be able to access the Internet from all kinds of other devices, ranging from personal digital assistants to television sets, and the Internet will also be embedded into everything from automobiles to home appliances.

"The biggest advantage of the mobile Internet is real-time communications," Sekizawa said, adding that this will allow consumers more convenient access to online services, from buying and selling stocks to shopping for bargains.

Noting that the relatively high cost of delivering goods ordered online to consumers to date has been an inhibitor in the growth of business-to-consumer electronic commerce, Sekizawa said that Japan also is developing new delivery mechanisms.

Already, consumers in Japan can pick up goods ordered online at Japan's wide-ranging network of 24,000 postal offices and 36,000 convenience stores, which are natural focal points in the lives of many Japanese, he said.

Sekizawa also presented a futuristic vision for solving the "last mile" delivery problem, which could significantly lower the cost of delivering goods directly to consumers' homes. In Japan, home delivery adds 1,000 yen to the cost of goods ordered online, making it difficult to sell low-cost products over the Internet, he noted.

To solve this problem in metropolitan areas, Sekizawa proposed the building of an underground matrix of tunnels in which linear motor cars would deliver goods directly to consumers.

Combined with a network of warehouse hubs, it is estimated that the creation of such a logistics system could allow for delivery of goods to consumers over distances of several hundreds of meters within two to three minutes at a cost of about 40 yen, Sekizawa said.

Fujitsu, in Tokyo, can be reached via the Web at http://www.fujitsu.co.jp/.

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