August 2, 2014

34 Weeks of OHA: #17

Company Name: NTT DoCoMo

How the OHA site classifies them: Mobile Operator

What the OHA site says about them: NTT DoCoMo is the world’s leading mobile communications operator, with 53 million customers, of which 40 million use the 3G/ FOMA service based on W-CDMA technology.

What they do: NTT DoCoMo is the argest mobile network operator in Japan. The name, officially, means ‘Never Tickle Tongue, Do Communications Over the Mobile Network’, which has a nice Engrish kinda ring to it. I might be lying about the tongue part. The Japanese word dokomo also means ‘everywhere’ in Japanese, and the NTT might stand for ‘Nippon Telegraph and Telephone’, the Japanese telecom which owns most of DoCoMo’s shares (and which, in turn, is 31% to 55% — a figure sufficiently ambiguous to be truly Japanese — owned by the Japanese government). They serve somewhere north of fifty million customers. Japanese customers, that is, who as a demographic are probably the most savvy mobile handset users in the world.

Wikipedia mentions that NTT DoCoMo has a mascot, Dokomodake, which is a mushroom. Docomodake has his own videogame, merchandise, plush toys, etc. A mushroom, I sh*t you not. There’s a whole family of them: Mother Docomodake, Father Docomodake, Grandpa Docomodake. They’re all mushrooms.

DoCoMo is is perhaps the most cutting edge mobile operator in the world. Their extensive R&D budget allowed them to introduct 3G and the i-mode mobile data service before anyone else in the world. They developed the W-CDMA 3G network and pushed its adoption as an international standard. Their mascot is a mushroom.

What they bring to OHA and Android:

50 million of the most discerning mobile customers in the world.

Mushrooms.

I really don’t think most of the mobile operators included in the OHA are bringing anything to the effort other than their weight and their networks. These guys are just the gatekeepers giving Google the opportunity for instant widespread penetration in exchange for a piece of what may be the next big thing for mobile.

Even given their history of innovation, I don’t think NTT DoCoMo is an exception. Check out the blurb re: OHA that Takeshi Natsuno, DoCoMo’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director of the Multimedia Services Department (now that’s a sweet title), provided on the quotes site:

DoCoMo strongly believes that rich mobile Internet services have been changing users’ daily lives dramatically. We believe the Open Handset Alliance’s vision of driving true openness will contribute significantly to this trend, supported by DoCoMo and other partners in the Alliance.

That’s a truly uninspired bit of PR fluffery. Insert Android buzzword “openness” here, talk about rich mobile internet, blah-blah, Print it. NTT DoCoMo isn’t committing to anything. If Android wins, great, they were there from the beginning. If Android loses, that’s okay too, we still have our mushrooms.

It goes to show that even mobile operators known for their innovation are cagey animals, hedging bets and throwing their lot in with whatever low-risk opportunity may yield benefits. To be expected, I guess, from a group of companies that are descended from Telcos. Chip off the old block, and all that. I find it interesting that the most innovative announcement re: openness to come from any mobile operator since Android was announced has come from AT&T, who is not a member of the OHA.

I don’t want to harsh on NTT DoCoMo too much, just cause they happened to be the subject of the article at a time when I’m feeling bitter and cynical. DoCoMo is fine. Hey, they brought us the world’s first 3G network, so they can’t be all bad. And, they did put their name behind Android.

I just wonder about the mobile operators’ commitment to openness how much a name in a list of OHA members really means.