- The title given to this article is incorrect due to technical limitations. The correct title is i-mode.
NTT DoCoMo's i-mode is a wireless internet service for i-mode mobile phones using HTTP, popular in Japan and increasingly also elsewhere. It was inspired by the drawbacks of WAP being discussed at the time, and a rough concept aimed for businessmen introduced to DoCoMo by McKinsey in 1997. After a 2 year period of developments at NTT DoCoMo, i-mode was launched as a mass-market product in Japan on February 22, 1999. The contents planning and service design team was led by Ms. Mari Matsunaga with Mr. Takeshi Natsuno responsible for the business development and top-executive Mr. Kei-Ichi Enoki overseeing the technical and overall developments.
i-mode is a mobile Internet service which as opposed to the mobile specific WAP standard which utilizes WML, instead uses standard Internet HTML, C-HTML, as well as DoCoMo proprietary ALP (HTTP) and TLP (TCP, UDP) protocols. It became a runaway success because of the use of de-facto Internet standards, its well designed services and business model. It uses C-HTML (for "Compact HTML") markup language, a subset of HTML. Later on NTT DoCoMo's collaboration with Sun Microsystems resulted in DoJa i-appli, an extension of CLDC (not compatible with J2ME/MIDP). There are some 3000 content-providing companies for i-mode.
As of August 2004, i-mode has 43 million customers in Japan, and over 3 million in the rest of the world. i-mode is being provided world-wide through DoCoMo's partners through a licensing scheme through mobile operators in the following countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco and Taiwan. Australia has also been announced as an upcoming market for i-mode.
i-mode is now a global ecosystem where operators design the compatible handsets, give strong editorial and usability rules to content providers, and propose an open business model to them. i-mode uses open standards as technologies: a light version of HTML is used for producing content, the i-mode mail is interoperable with Internet e-mail and images and sound formats are the ones used on the Web. i-mode users have access to various services, e.g. e-mail, sports results, weather forecast, games, financial services and ticket booking.
The current i-mode center is called CiRCUS, which consists of 400 NEC NX7000 HP-UX servers and occupies 4600 sqm floor space in DoCoMo's Kawasaki office. The operation support system is called CARNiVAL which is hosted in the Toranomon JT Building.
Some typical features include so-called shell model, large displays (240x320 pixels) and in many models, a display on either side. Additionally the phones have many extra features, e.g. a megapixel digital camera. The displays normally have 65536 colors but the newest models have as many as 262144 colors. The phones measure and weigh about the same as Nokia models. A typical i-mode phone is comparable to a Nokia 6600 model.
i-mode in use
i-mode phones have a special i-mode button for the user to access the start menu. There are thousands of official sites and tens of thousands of unofficial ones - that can be made available with anyone using HTML and with access to a standard web-server. NTT DoCoMo supervises the content on the official sites and they are often commercial. These official sites are accessed through the menus but the unofficial site addresses may be typed manually or through the use of OCR functionality with the now ubiquitos mobile-camera.
An i-mode user pays for both sent and received data. There are different kinds of services to avoid unwanted reception of unsolicited e-mails. The basic monthly charge is ¥300 for i-mode, with additional charges on a monthly subscription basis for premium services such as information, news, games etc.