Although it may say more about the nature of the Japanese mobile phone market than about the global economic slowdown or Nokia’s products, the number-one mobile handset maker Nokia has announced it will stop developing handsets for Japanese operators NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile.
Although Nokia was a reasonably strong presence in the Japanese market in ghte early 1990s, it withdrew once before, only to re-enter five years ago as the country shifted from proprietary networks to 3G technologies. However, the operations have failed to meet expectations, so Nokia has decided developing phones for the Japanese market is no longer a priority.
Foreign phone makers have traditionally had a very tough time in Japan, where mobile operators work closely with makers alike Panasonic, Fujitsu, Sharp, and NEC to develop phones tightly bound to local and regional tastes and even fads. No non-Japanese phone maker has achieved success in Japan comparable to domestic handset developers. Furthermore, Japan’s mobile Internet system includes a number of proprietary (though mature) technologies, which means handsets have to be engineered and developed specifically for the Japanese market.
Nokia said it plans to keep an R&D center open in Japan, and will continue to offer its high-end Vertu handsets for the Japanese luxury phone market. There has also been press speculation Nokia might launch its own MVNO in Japan to support its Vertu business.
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