Back in 2008, when the iPhone first entered the Japanese market, about a year after its debut in the US, some technology analysts outlined a gloomy forecast for the product in a country already awash in innovative smartphones.
But soon after, when it became clear that Softbank, the only company allowed to sell the iPhone at the time, had a hit on its hands, the landscape of the Japanese cell phone market was changed forever. Since then, Docomo - Japan's market leader, and the only major mobile phone company in Japan that doesn't sell the iPhone - has been playing catch up. Now, according to a new report, Docomo will join Samsung's effort to snatch back the global smartphone market from the likes of Apple and Google's Android operating system.
In a new report from Japan's Yomuiri Shimbun, the paper claims that Docomo is set to join the open source smartphone operating system called Tizen, which is being developed by Samsung and Intel. Based on Linux, the Tizen operating system is designed to be an easy, new platform on which developers can create HTML5 applications for smartphones, tablets, netbooks, smart televisions, and car systems. Currently, the open source operating system has garnered the support of global wireless carriers such as Orange, SK telecom, Telefónica, Vodafone, and US carrier Sprint Nextel.
With addition of Docomo, the Tizen effort gains a good deal of credibility as well as momentum from a long-standing leader in bleeding-edge mobile phone technology. Of Japan's roughly 127 million mobile phone subscribers, Docomo currently has the most at 60 million, with AU and Softbank following far behind at 37 million and 31 million, respectively.
While the effort might seem like a bid to unseat the iPhone from its perch, in reality the Tizen effort is squarely targeting the growing dominance of the Google-developed Android OS. According to Gartner research, Android currently boasts 72 per cent of the global smartphone OS market, compared to Apple's nearly 14 per cent. The first Tizen devices are expected to hit the market sometime in the first quarter of 2013.