Japanese Content Giant Buys 2 US Firms
By Carlo Longino, Fri Aug 06 19:45:00 GMT 2004

US ringtone leader Zingy and one-time mobile hot property Vindigo have been acquired by a Japanese mobile content heavyweight. Are Japanese eyes turning east?

MocoNews reports that Japanese mobile content biggie For-Side.com has purchased US firms Zingy, one of the country's biggest ringtone and content sellers, and Vindigo, which had some success a few years back with its PDA-based city guides.

This isn't the first time that a Japanese mobile firm has landed on US shores with sights on the content business. AT&T Wireless' mMode content system was supposedly modeled on i-mode, helped along by NTT DoCoMo and its billion-dollar investment, thought it's been little more than a pale comparision. But while Japanese networks and handsets remain far ahead of the US, perhaps the situation stateside has evolved enough to where Japanese companies can swoop in and implement old-hat business plans from the 2G content networks like i-mode, EZweb and J-Sky and find success.

Mobile content still hasn't taken off in the US in a major way, though there has been decent interest in downloading ringtones, graphics and games. A company like For-Side has a huge library of content it can leverage and combine with companies like Zingy and Vindigo's back ends and carrier relationships, and it also has experience with delivering both Java and Brew content.

The pump is primed in the US, as relatively advanced handsets with cameras, color screens and Java support are in wide circulation, text messaging is now commonplace and 2.5G data networks offer fast-enough speeds. Flat-rate data plans aren't out of the ordinary here, and it would appear that the market is just waiting for not even a killer app, but just some compelling content and applications, to make mobile data use explode.

The real key is that content in the US still lags Japan by a great deal. Things like video ringers and ringback tones haven't even shown up on the radar here, and there's ample opportunity for experienced companies to come in from overseas and leap well ahead of domestic content producers. Companies that have been successful with 2G content in Japan know what works there, and though consumer tastes can be very different, they have an idea of what it takes to succeed. Look for more moves by Japanese content firms across the Pacific, looking to cash in on the burgeoning US content market.