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Apple announces paid content for iBookstore in Japan

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has released an update to its iBooks application, which finally introduces paid content for users in Japan from the iBookstore. The update also includes improvements for Asian language books, and ostensibly that includes Japanese. We heard early reports about this development back in December, with Nikkei writing that Apple had 80,000 titles ready to go from local publishers. We’re not sure what the official number of offerings is, but the iBookstore now offers a wide variety of manga and novels, including big name titles like One Piece. CNet Japan notes that publishers on board include Kodansha, Kobunsha, Gentosha, Shueisha, and PHP Institute. The Japanese ebook scene is a notoriously difficult one for Western companies to penetrate, and Amazon can attest to this as its Kindle ebook reader took forever to arrive. This was reportedly due to long, tedious negotiations with Japanese publishers who are are resistant to having their industry disrupted. Apple, no doubt, had work hard to get past those same issues. (Via Tuaw)

japan-ibookstoreApple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has released an update to its iBooks application, which finally introduces paid content for users in Japan from the iBookstore. The update also includes improvements for Asian language books, and ostensibly that includes Japanese. We heard early reports about this development back in December, with Nikkei writing that Apple had 80,000 titles ready to go from local publishers.

We’re not sure what the official number of offerings is, but the iBookstore now offers a wide variety of manga and novels, including big name titles like One Piece. CNet Japan notes that publishers on board include Kodansha, Kobunsha, Gentosha, Shueisha, and PHP Institute.

The Japanese ebook scene is a notoriously difficult one for Western companies to penetrate, and Amazon can attest to this as its Kindle ebook reader took forever to arrive. This was reportedly due to long, tedious negotiations with Japanese publishers who are are resistant to having their industry disrupted. Apple, no doubt, had work hard to get past those same issues. (Via Tuaw)

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Japan’s ringtone publisher Dwango partners with pair of media giants

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[Update] The group has announced that UK-based play performance group Whole Hog Theatre will conduct a Japan tour of Princess Mononoke in April and May in partnership with the Studio Ghibli animation studio. Dwango’s CEO is currently working at the studio as a ‘trainee’ to explore a possible collaboration. Dwango, a Tokyo-based ringtone distributor and the parent company of Japanese video sharing service Nico Nico Douga, announced today that Japanese publishing giant Kadokawa Group and Nippon Television Network would take a major stake of its shares. The company’s largest shareholder prior to this announcement, music company Avex Group, will now be the third largest shareholder. Dwango has been partnered with Avex for seven years, but it has been exploring other partnerships in different businesses to diversify its service portfolio. Kagokawa also recently acquired Skyscraper Inc. from Dwango, a company which primarily handles ads for the Nico Nico Douga video service. A group of ten companies [1] including Dwango and Nippon TV Network will unveil a major joint project of some kind on Tuesday afternoon. The press briefing will be broadcast live on the web on Nico Nico Douga starting at 2pm Tuesday, Japan Time. The ten companies are Dwango, Nippon…

[Update] The group has announced that UK-based play performance group Whole Hog Theatre will conduct a Japan tour of Princess Mononoke in April and May in partnership with the Studio Ghibli animation studio. Dwango’s CEO is currently working at the studio as a ‘trainee’ to explore a possible collaboration.


dwango

Dwango, a Tokyo-based ringtone distributor and the parent company of Japanese video sharing service Nico Nico Douga, announced today that Japanese publishing giant Kadokawa Group and Nippon Television Network would take a major stake of its shares. The company’s largest shareholder prior to this announcement, music company Avex Group, will now be the third largest shareholder.

Dwango has been partnered with Avex for seven years, but it has been exploring other partnerships in different businesses to diversify its service portfolio. Kagokawa also recently acquired Skyscraper Inc. from Dwango, a company which primarily handles ads for the Nico Nico Douga video service.

A group of ten companies [1] including Dwango and Nippon TV Network will unveil a major joint project of some kind on Tuesday afternoon. The press briefing will be broadcast live on the web on Nico Nico Douga starting at 2pm Tuesday, Japan Time.


  1. The ten companies are Dwango, Nippon TV Network, Nelke Planning (musical production), the Yomiuri Shimbun (newspaper), Tokyo FM, Lawson (a convenience store), E-plus (an online ticketing service), Dentsu, Aiia (an apparel and puzzle game publisher), and BS Nippon (a satellite broadcaster).  ↩

Incubate Fund forms new $21.4M fund, plans to invest in 100 startups in 3 years

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Tokyo-based VC Incubate Fund recently announced that it had established a new 2 billion yen fund (about $21.4 million), with the aim of investing in seed startups and young venture capitalists. Specifically, the firm expects to invest in 100 startups within the next three years. To establish the fund, the firm fundraised from Infocom Corporation (the publisher of a bilingual news blog on Japan-made Android apps), Sega, SME Support, D2C (a joint venture of Dentsu and NTT Docomo), Nissay Capital (an investment arm of Japan’s second largest life insurance company), Mixi, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital. Until now, the firm has been known for investing in a number of notable Japanese startups including game companies Gumi, Pokelabo, Aiming, and Axel Mark; as well as San San, who runs a business card-based CRM solution. In the past several months, the firm has been expanding its scope beyond gaming startups, investing in seed and early startups like Coffee Meeting (people-to-people matchmaking on a chat over coffee), Storys.jp, Designclue, Voip, and Booklap.

incubatefund_logoTokyo-based VC Incubate Fund recently announced that it had established a new 2 billion yen fund (about $21.4 million), with the aim of investing in seed startups and young venture capitalists. Specifically, the firm expects to invest in 100 startups within the next three years.

To establish the fund, the firm fundraised from Infocom Corporation (the publisher of a bilingual news blog on Japan-made Android apps), Sega, SME Support, D2C (a joint venture of Dentsu and NTT Docomo), Nissay Capital (an investment arm of Japan’s second largest life insurance company), Mixi, and Mitsubishi UFJ Capital.

Until now, the firm has been known for investing in a number of notable Japanese startups including game companies Gumi, Pokelabo, Aiming, and Axel Mark; as well as San San, who runs a business card-based CRM solution. In the past several months, the firm has been expanding its scope beyond gaming startups, investing in seed and early startups like Coffee Meeting (people-to-people matchmaking on a chat over coffee), Storys.jp, Designclue, Voip, and Booklap.

Japan’s DeployGate aspires to be a standard tool for Android development

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Japanese social network Mixi (TYO:2121) doesn’t often do business beyond its home market, so I was pretty intrigued recently to get a preview of a relatively new project from its innovation team that is making an effort to go after global users. DeployGate initially launched last year, promising an easier way to distribute test versions of Android applications as part of the development process, all without an SDK. That service is getting an update today, one which expands its focus past just developers, placing more emphasis on the users. With this shift, it moves in on the territory of Test Flight, although its focus is still heavily on the development process. DeployGate initially came about as a result of the Mixi in-house developers scratching their own itch. As the were developing Mixi Android clients they often ran into problems, finding they had a need for easier deployment of apps to test users. DeployGate is the solution they came up with, eventually becoming a product that The Mixi innovation team would ship as a product, spun off from the Mixi development team. The process looks simple enough from a developer’s point of view. Your app is uploaded, and then you can…

L to R: Kenta Imai, Yuki Fujisaki, Kyosuke Inoue
L to R: Kenta Imai, Yuki Fujisaki, Kyosuke Inoue

Japanese social network Mixi (TYO:2121) doesn’t often do business beyond its home market, so I was pretty intrigued recently to get a preview of a relatively new project from its innovation team that is making an effort to go after global users. DeployGate initially launched last year, promising an easier way to distribute test versions of Android applications as part of the development process, all without an SDK. That service is getting an update today, one which expands its focus past just developers, placing more emphasis on the users. With this shift, it moves in on the territory of Test Flight, although its focus is still heavily on the development process.

DeployGate initially came about as a result of the Mixi in-house developers scratching their own itch. As the were developing Mixi Android clients they often ran into problems, finding they had a need for easier deployment of apps to test users. DeployGate is the solution they came up with, eventually becoming a product that The Mixi innovation team would ship as a product, spun off from the Mixi development team.

01_distribution_page_en

The process looks simple enough from a developer’s point of view. Your app is uploaded, and then you can create a unique deployment page (or distribution panel) for that iteration which can then be circulated to whomever you wish, typically via email. It can be password protected too if you like. The amount of users you can reach depends on your payment plan. After deployment over-the-air, a developer can then monitor error and crash reports from the web dashboard (pictured below), push updates, debug remotely, or even cancel privileges remotely if they choose.

The ability to deploy different app versions to different groups means that the newer version of DeployGate makes AB testing a little easier than before.

The new version of DeployGate has a number of new features, most notably a new pricing plan that makes it more accessible to more people. The pricing plans are listed below. As you can see, the new version follows a freemium model, although paid plans are reasonably priced.

Free Lite Pro Biz
Number of apps 4 10 50 100
Number of developers/collaborators 2 5 25 100
Version histories 5 15 100 1000
Devices 20 100 3,000 30,000
Monthly fee (yen) [1] 0 525 3,650 9,975

With this new version, the hope is that developers and marketers will use the free plan and want to do more, eventually upgrading to paid plans. So far the team has mainly used Google Adwords for marketing, so this should give the product an extra push now that more people can try it out. But the advantages for any individual developers are obvious.

The team has high hopes for DeployGate too, saying they want to become the de facto solution for developing Android applications. That’s a lofty goal, but it looks like they have some prominent clients already. So far, notable companies who use DeployGate are Baidu (Japan), Kayac, Zaim [2], and Tokyo Otaku Mode. I’m told that currently the service has enough paid customers to sustain their current ecosystem, and that’s certainly promising.

So far they have users in 90 countries, with 3,400 apps distributed in total. And surprisingly their customers appear to be more global that than I’d have expected from anything associated with Mixi, with 76% of usage in English, and 24% in Japanese.

It will be interesting to see if this service from the innovation team can break free of the stagnation that has been hampering Mixi as a whole in recent years. But with DeployGate, along with the recently launched Nohana camera app, it’s certainly great to see them try.

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  1. In dollars, that’s $8, $45, amd $120.  ↩

  2. Zaim is a made-in-Japan personal finance application which I really like a lot. In the coming weeks I hope to feature it in more detail.  ↩

Japan tech this week: Startups pitching, Gungho winning, Facebook liked

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We’ve had another fun week here at SD, doing our best to bring you interesting tech stories going down in Japan. But in case you missed any of it, here’s a wrap up below. Readers on mobile might want to check them out over on Readlists or in ePub format. If you’d like to get this weekly summary plus other bonus content, we hope you’ll check out our shiny new newsletter here. Featured Niconico Douga: Japanese online video site puts discussion front and center Smapo: Can Japan’s answer to Shopkick fend off new competition? A fine line: Shantell Martin projects freestyle performance art Japan’s Gungho Entertainment is winning at home, but will global gamers get it? Business Japanese reality show will ask contestants to live the Amazon life 5 Japanese studios team up to create online anime platform for overseas markets Messaging app Line partners with Nokia to accelerate global expansion Microsoft rolls out huge teaser ads for Surface tablet in Tokyo Gyao and Gree team up to invest in animation content development Design The future of libraries? In Japan, elevated study pods encourage conversation Japanese startup turns oversized greeting cards into an unlikely digital business Fun apps Ewww! Japanese…

We’ve had another fun week here at SD, doing our best to bring you interesting tech stories going down in Japan. But in case you missed any of it, here’s a wrap up below. Readers on mobile might want to check them out over on Readlists or in ePub format.

If you’d like to get this weekly summary plus other bonus content, we hope you’ll check out our shiny new newsletter here.

Business

Design

Fun apps

Standout startups

Other notable stories

Docomo publishes ‘Twitter Local Yellow Pages’ for Japan

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Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo (NYSE:DCM) has announced a new ‘Twitter local yellow pages’ mobile site in cooperation with Twitter Japan and local radio stations. The new mobile site, accessible at tw-yp.jp, will include recommended Twitter accounts, sorted into the categories of food, shopping, sight seeing spots, local reports, celebrities, and sports teams. Drilling down into each category, the listed recommended accounts can be further browsed according to Japan’s prefectures and cities. The intent here is very much in the same spirit of Twitter’s suggested users function. It aims to provide assistance to first time and beginner Twitter users who might not immediately know where they can find relevant information after signing up. In theory, this will help Japanese Twitter users stay better connected with important Twitter broadcasters in their local areas, a service which should prove valuable in the event of local emergencies when critical information might be disseminated through those channels. While the service is intended to be a mobile site, it is also accessible by PC. Docomo and Twitter Japan have working together as partners since May of 2011.

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Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo (NYSE:DCM) has announced a new ‘Twitter local yellow pages’ mobile site in cooperation with Twitter Japan and local radio stations.

The new mobile site, accessible at tw-yp.jp, will include recommended Twitter accounts, sorted into the categories of food, shopping, sight seeing spots, local reports, celebrities, and sports teams. Drilling down into each category, the listed recommended accounts can be further browsed according to Japan’s prefectures and cities.

The intent here is very much in the same spirit of Twitter’s suggested users function. It aims to provide assistance to first time and beginner Twitter users who might not immediately know where they can find relevant information after signing up.

In theory, this will help Japanese Twitter users stay better connected with important Twitter broadcasters in their local areas, a service which should prove valuable in the event of local emergencies when critical information might be disseminated through those channels. While the service is intended to be a mobile site, it is also accessible by PC.

Docomo and Twitter Japan have working together as partners since May of 2011.

twitter yellow pages

twitter yellow pages

Japanese reality show will ask contestants to live the Amazon life

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TV Tokyo is planning a new reality TV show where contestants will have to create a home life with items they purchase only from Amazon Japan. The show, to be titled Kaiteki! Amazon Seikatsu!, will be aired on March 4th at 1AM in the morning. Contestants stay in a one-room apartment, buying goods from Amazon Japan such as food, goods to help them pass the time, or even furniture. The goal will be to create a home that people would want to visit. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is already doing respectably well in the Japanese market, as its sales for 2012 grew 19% over the previous year to 7.8 billion yen (or about $84 million). That’s good enough to make the country Amazon’s second largest foreign market, just behind Germany. The company is also set to release its Kindle Fire HD 8.9 in Japan on March 12, priced at 24,800 yen for the 16GB model ($268), and 29,800 yen ($322) for the 32 GB model. TV Tokyo via Asiajin, Marketzine.jp

amazon-life

TV Tokyo is planning a new reality TV show where contestants will have to create a home life with items they purchase only from Amazon Japan.

The show, to be titled Kaiteki! Amazon Seikatsu!, will be aired on March 4th at 1AM in the morning. Contestants stay in a one-room apartment, buying goods from Amazon Japan such as food, goods to help them pass the time, or even furniture. The goal will be to create a home that people would want to visit.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is already doing respectably well in the Japanese market, as its sales for 2012 grew 19% over the previous year to 7.8 billion yen (or about $84 million). That’s good enough to make the country Amazon’s second largest foreign market, just behind Germany.

The company is also set to release its Kindle Fire HD 8.9 in Japan on March 12, priced at 24,800 yen for the 16GB model ($268), and 29,800 yen ($322) for the 32 GB model.

TV Tokyo via Asiajin, Marketzine.jp

5 Japanese studios team up to create online anime platform for overseas markets

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Five Japanese animation studios and two Japanese advertising agencies announced yesterday that they will jointly found a web-based content distribution platform called Daisuki (literally meaning, ‘I love it so much.’). They plan to launch the service in April. The participating studios are Aniplex, Sunrise, Toei Animation, TMS Entertainment and Nihon Ad Systems, and two ad giants involved are Dentsu and Asatsu DK. These seven companies aspire to make it easier for people overseas to watch Japanese animation titles regardless of time and location, and to explore possibilities to monetize Japan-made content while preventing the spread of video piracy online. They will also sell merchandise such as character toys on the website as well. The animation titles expected to be included are Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mobile Suit Gundam, One Piece, Lupin The Third, and The Prince of Tennis. Some popular new titles will be available on the platform also, broadcast at the same time that they appear on Japanese terrestrial TV networks. On a related note, Japanese video portal Gyao and social gaming giant GREE also announced this week that they would be teaming up to establish an investment fund to cultivate the animation production business.

DAISUKI-logo Five Japanese animation studios and two Japanese advertising agencies announced yesterday that they will jointly found a web-based content distribution platform called Daisuki (literally meaning, ‘I love it so much.’). They plan to launch the service in April. The participating studios are Aniplex, Sunrise, Toei Animation, TMS Entertainment and Nihon Ad Systems, and two ad giants involved are Dentsu and Asatsu DK.

These seven companies aspire to make it easier for people overseas to watch Japanese animation titles regardless of time and location, and to explore possibilities to monetize Japan-made content while preventing the spread of video piracy online. They will also sell merchandise such as character toys on the website as well.

The animation titles expected to be included are Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mobile Suit Gundam, One Piece, Lupin The Third, and The Prince of Tennis. Some popular new titles will be available on the platform also, broadcast at the same time that they appear on Japanese terrestrial TV networks.

On a related note, Japanese video portal Gyao and social gaming giant GREE also announced this week that they would be teaming up to establish an investment fund to cultivate the animation production business.

It’s official: Japan likes Facebook!

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has officially surpassed 19 million monthly active users in Japan, putting it well ahead of domestic rival Mixi, which has been spinning its wheels in the past year or so at around 15 million. Serkan Toto points out today that this figure comes directly from Facebook Japan’s country growth manager Taro Kodama during Social Media Week here in Tokyo. I think this is interesting for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, of course, is that it shows that Facebook is growing well in Japan, a country where some thought early on that it would fail due Japan’s unique distaste for using real names on the internet. Facebook’s growth before the 2011 earthquake was indeed modest, although in the wake of that tragedy many people apparently realized the value of a social network that reflected real world connections, as growth would accelerate after that. This new data point also clarifies recent confusion that Facebook’s user numbers in Japan might be plummeting by the millions, as indicated by Social Bakers, which pulls data from Facebook’s own ad tool. The latter (and by extension the former) probably shouldn’t be trusted for anything more than a general guide [1]. Such headlines spring…

facebook-fan

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has officially surpassed 19 million monthly active users in Japan, putting it well ahead of domestic rival Mixi, which has been spinning its wheels in the past year or so at around 15 million. Serkan Toto points out today that this figure comes directly from Facebook Japan’s country growth manager Taro Kodama during Social Media Week here in Tokyo.

I think this is interesting for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, of course, is that it shows that Facebook is growing well in Japan, a country where some thought early on that it would fail due Japan’s unique distaste for using real names on the internet. Facebook’s growth before the 2011 earthquake was indeed modest, although in the wake of that tragedy many people apparently realized the value of a social network that reflected real world connections, as growth would accelerate after that.

This new data point also clarifies recent confusion that Facebook’s user numbers in Japan might be plummeting by the millions, as indicated by Social Bakers, which pulls data from Facebook’s own ad tool. The latter (and by extension the former) probably shouldn’t be trusted for anything more than a general guide [1]. Such headlines spring up for other countries occasionally too, and it’s best not to make too much commotion when such ‘user drops’ occur.

Photo: via Facebook Marketing Japan (blurred for ironic anonymity)


  1. As far as general guides go, I think it’s a pretty good one.  ↩

Microsoft rolls out huge teaser ads for Surface tablet in Tokyo

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) apparently has its sights set on Japan as the next market for its Surface tablet. And the software giant is apparently sparing no expense in its promotion, as teaser advertising has gone up in the prime areas in Tokyo, with a Surface ad at Shibuya’s Q-front (above) overlooking perhaps the most dense area on the planet in terms of foot traffic. Surface ads have also sprung up at Matsuya Ginza, a very famous department store, as well as near the iconic Tokyo Sky Tree. Impress PC Watch an assortment of photos if you’d like to check them out. This follows a report from Japan’s Nikkei (via CNet) that Microsoft’s tablet could arrive in Japan as early as next month. It’s expected that it will be the Surface RT edition, which has already made its way to markets in Europe, as well as selected APAC regions like Hong Kong, China, and Australia. Speaking to CNet, Microsoft didn’t add any significant details about the tablet’s availability in Japan. But given the emergence of these very prominent — and very big — teaser ads, you can expect we’ll see the Surface dropping in Japan very soon.

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At Shibuya’s Q-Front, Photo from pcwatch.impress.co.jp

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) apparently has its sights set on Japan as the next market for its Surface tablet. And the software giant is apparently sparing no expense in its promotion, as teaser advertising has gone up in the prime areas in Tokyo, with a Surface ad at Shibuya’s Q-front (above) overlooking perhaps the most dense area on the planet in terms of foot traffic.

Surface ads have also sprung up at Matsuya Ginza, a very famous department store, as well as near the iconic Tokyo Sky Tree. Impress PC Watch an assortment of photos if you’d like to check them out.

This follows a report from Japan’s Nikkei (via CNet) that Microsoft’s tablet could arrive in Japan as early as next month. It’s expected that it will be the Surface RT edition, which has already made its way to markets in Europe, as well as selected APAC regions like Hong Kong, China, and Australia.

Speaking to CNet, Microsoft didn’t add any significant details about the tablet’s availability in Japan. But given the emergence of these very prominent — and very big — teaser ads, you can expect we’ll see the Surface dropping in Japan very soon.