Google Taps Japanese Mobile Market Via NTT

NTT will offer Google search, ads and applications on its I-mode mobile Internet services.

Google struck a deal with NTT DoCoMo Jan. 24 to market ad-laden search and applications to users of I-mode, a popular Internet service used by nearly 48 million people in Japan.

Beginning this spring, Google will serve search results for mobile and PC Web sites via the I-mode portal search box, which will sit on the top page of the I-mode portal for prominence. Keyword-based ads from Google's AdWords ad platform will served on the search-result pages.

Google will also be the default start page on future I-mode handsets, and the two companies will work on making Google Gmail, YouTube and Picasa easy to use on I-mode gadgets. NTT also said it is weighing whether or not to make Google Maps for Mobile a standard pre-installed application on future I-mode handsets.

Winning NTT as an ally is Google's latest step in its bid to put its software in front of as many users as possible. Google's search pages are laden with links to digital ads, the company's leading revenue source.

With the online ad market for the desktop maturing, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and their mixed bag of partners and rivals in the wireless market view the mobile sector as the next big opportunity to put ads in front of smart phone users.

By putting its search, ads and applications in front of I-mode's 48 million users, Google can assure its place in Japan's rabid mobile market, in which users send e-mail, watch movies, and pay for goods and services through smart phones equipped with I-mode.

"A cornerstone of Google's mobile strategy is to work with wireless industry leaders to bring users the best possible mobile experience, and our future collaboration with DoCoMo will help us accomplish that," John Lagerling, strategic partner development manager at Google, told eWEEK via e-mail.

Perhaps just as significant for Google's mobile strategy, NTT said in a statement it was weighing whether or not to bring handsets based on Google's Android Linux-based mobile operating system to the Japanese market.

Skepticism has hung heavy over Android since it was unveiled Nov. 5, with detractors doubting whether or not the market will support another mobile OS.

Should NTT agree to make smart phones based on Android, the high-tech world will be forced to consider the software a serious player along with the market leading Symbian and Windows Mobile OS'.

For now, Google will have to be content serving I-mode users Google search, ads and applications.

The deal, which was widely reported in December but not official until today, was also announced on the same day the Federal Communications Commission began auctioning off some $10 billion in 700 MHz wireless spectrum to vendors such as AT&T, Verizon and Google.

Who won what will be private until the auction is complete in a few weeks.