May 18, 2006 8:03 AM PDT
Google search heads to cell phones in Japan
The tech giant announced on Thursday that it is working with KDDI, the country's second-largest mobile-service provider after NTT DoCoMo, to provide search service for mobile phone users in the Japanese market as of July. KDDI has more than 22 million mobile phone users, less than half of DoCoMo's, but its Au brand service is more popular among young Japanese because of services like music downloads.
Google's search engine will provide the content for cell phones on KDDI's EZweb Internet service, as well for PCs in general. Google also will provide related ads for the search results on mobile phones.
Earlier this month, DoCoMo partnered with Microsoft to adopt Windows Media technology for its handsets, allowing DoCoMo's users to play music obtained through downloads or ripped from CDs.
Also on Thursday, Softbank announced that it will form a joint venture with Vodafone Group to succeed Vodafone's Japanese operation, which Softbank in March agreed to buy. Masayoshi Son, chief executive of Softbank, will become CEO of the new company, and Bill Morrow, CEO of Vodafone Group Europe, will be its chief operating officer. In addition, Vodafone's Arun Sarin will become a board member.
Softbank has recently been reported to be in discussions with Apple Computer regarding an iPod phone, though the company has not confirmed any deal.
All these moves come as the Japanese government is moving to adopt a so-called "number portability" rule later this year. The adoption is expected to significantly shift the numbers of cell phone users among providers.
Hayashi Sakawa and Kyoko Fujimoto of CNET Japan reported from Tokyo.
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