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DoCoMo Surrenders

by Richard Guppy | Sep 13, 2013

DoCoMo has finally accepted the inevitable: it has to distribute Apple products or see its market share and profits fall even further.  DoCoMo’s only 5% share of net subscriber adds in calendar 2Q13 – compared with SoftBank’s 52% and KDDI’s 42% - must have been a final push for CEO Kaoru Kato to sign the deal.  See the new Dossier on DoCoMo at

The deal will help DoCoMo to fight back, and stabilize or even win new market share of subscribers.  But it has taken DoCoMo a long time to make the decision, allowing SoftBank has become a major competitor in the meantime, even acquiring Sprint in the USA and build scale and know-how that it can use to attack DoCoMo with.  KDDI also distributes Apple devices, but is a less potent competitor than SoftBank.

What stopped DoCoMo from doing a deal with Apple was the volume commitment required by Apple, in a country where DoCoMo has been the major sponsor of multiple domestic OEMs.  Names like Panasonic and NEC have recently quit the consumer smartphone market, already unable to compete.  With the Apple – DoCoMo deal, the pressure will be on other vendors such as Sharp to survive.  Further closures may be announced.

Just as interesting for the rest of the world is how DoCoMo’s ecosystem can survive the conflict with Apple’s ecosystem.  Apple has iTunes; DoCoMo has ‘dmarket’, including a big uptake of its movie service ‘dvideo’.  Similarly its now Apple TV vs NOTTV.  ‘dhits’ vs iRadio.  ‘dmusic’ vs iTunes Music.  Apps Store vs Osusume Pack.  ‘Shabette Concier’ vs Siri.  And most importantly, a projected $10bn of projected annual revenue for DoCoMo in 2015 from its ecosystem, against Apple’s income.

For Apple, DoCoMo’s 60 million subscribers unlock the equivalent of a market larger than, say, Spain.  This may just be the prelude, however, once China Mobile and its more than 700 million subscribers join the Apple camp.  That seems likely some time in 2013 or 2014.

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