DoCoMo: Enabling, Not Creating, The Killer App
By Mike Masnick, Wed Oct 06 23:30:00 GMT 2004

While many operators have been promoting 3G and looking for that "killer app," NTT DoCoMo is still focused on enabling others to build the killer app.

DoCoMo, of course, doesn't have its reputation for being developer friendly for nothing. For years, the i-mode system has been held up as the standard for other mobile operators to follow in working with developers (even if very few have successfully copied the system). Thus, it should come as little surprise to find out that DoCoMo's research labs in the US sees enabling developers to create better software for high speed data networks as one of its most important missions.

In an interview with Dr. Nayeem Islam, DoCoMo USA Labs' vice president of cellular phone platform software research and development, what comes across clearly is that DoCoMo isn't focused on building the "killer app" itself, but on making sure anyone else can build it for DoCoMo. To do this, Islam points out that DoCoMo needs to be flexible in allowing developers to go in any possible direction. He says the two key concepts are keeping the network "open" and "dynamic" to make sure that anyone can develop for it, and that new features can be added easily.

On top of that, DoCoMo's focus isn't necessarily on jumpstarting the market with its own, competitive, offerings, but handling all of the issues to make sure everyone's applications and services work well for the mobile end user. That means working on middleware that helps some of the issues that impact all mobile applications. For example, Islam describes DoCoMo's work on an intelligent middleware system that recognizes mobile devices can experience regular disconnects, and helps compensate for that so that individual applications don't need to worry about it.

All of this contrasts with some other operators who have worked hard to keep networks closed and focused on selling 3G services by pitching specific applications, like video calling, when there's no clear demand. Instead, mobile operators need to understand that, while they may not know what the "killer app" will be for 3G, opening up and helping developers create a wide variety of applications and services that will provide subscribers with what they really want.