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8/27/08 1:33 PM

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COMMENTARY

Around the World in 80 Biennials Momus

10.18.05

Contemporary art biennials are booming; there are now over 50 of these mega-shows worldwide. Unlike art trade fairs like Art Basel or the Armory Show, where dealers and galleries pay to exhibit, biennials tend to be government-funded, centrally curated and designed to put the host city on the map. On any given day of any given year, an art biennial is being staged somewhere in the world, attracting its own nomadic tribe of curators, connoisseurs, collectors and curious locals. But what would it be like to spend an entire year going from one to the next? Well, congratulations! You've won a place on the Art Biennials Mystery Tour! Cancel all your appointments and grab a toothbrush, it starts right now! Your first destination is sunny Tirana, Albania. The Tirana Biennial 3 is themed around "Sweet Taboos," but don't expect pass taboos like sex, drugs or money; here in Tirana what's taboo is standard organization. They're running the show backward, with the opening party and catalog at the end. If you think that has more to do with running late than subversion, well, keep your cynicism sweetly taboo, please! After Tirana you're off to Venice, the elegant grandmother of all modern biennials, founded in 1895 at the height of what critic Ulf Wuggenig calls "the age of the gold standard regime ... the belle poque of globalization." This year Venice has two female curators, Mara de Corral and Rosa Martnez. The theme is "Perpetual Genius," but don't worry, you're not in for room after room of Great White Males. The first thing you'll see at the Arsenale is 1970s-style agitprop from the Guerrilla Girls, then lots of video art made by emerging artists from emerging places. It's a pity Gregor Schneider's daring plan to turn the Piazza San Marco into Mecca was rejected by the Venetian authorities. But the granny of all biennales still has teeth. There won't be much time to hang around Venice; you're off to the second Beijing International Art Biennale in China. Its theme is "Contemporary Art with Humanistic Concerns." That sounds good -- one in the eye for critics of China's human rights record! The Beijing curators seem to know where you've come from: "A lot of narrative and symbolic works of excellence have emerged, which have broken the convention of the Venice Biennale paying attention to the video art. That method of image viewing is comparatively time-consuming and doesn't leave a deep impression on viewers." So Beijing has hung a lot of paintings in its biennale. Whatever style they're in, there's a certain socialist realism about the curators' final statement: "When art is attracting attentions of various circles, it is a good chance for enterprises to gain business opportunities, to expand industries and to enhance reputation." While we're in Asia, let's swing by the third Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, then the Yokohama Triennale, where the art this year is presented inside packing cases in two huge working warehouses down on the dockside, just in case you need to be reminded how closely the global trade in ideas relates to global trade itself. Then there's just time to catch the end of the Gwangju Biennale in Korea, where "60 non-artists, from fashion designer Muiccia Prada to British farmer Ross Cherrington" have picked the artists. After that break from art -- well, from art http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/commentary/imomus/2005/10/69242

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picked by art curators, anyway -- it's back to Europe, or rather a city that may one day be in Europe, if Turkey meets the EU's membership criteria: Istanbul. At the Istanbul Biennial, the curators have invited artists to live and work in the city for several months. "The sites are an apartment block, an old customs storehouse, a former tobacco depository, a gallery, a shop, a theater and an office building.... The walk between these venues should also be seen as a part of the biennial experience." Those art walks should get you fit in body and mind for your next destination: France, and the eighth Lyon Biennale. Curators N. Bourriaud and J. Sans have selected "Experiencing Duration" as their theme. They seem to mean time travel. "This 2005 biennial buzzes with the experimental spirit of '70s counterculture," they write. "Our interest here is ... in the hippie experience as an attempt at a counterculture, a laboratory of new forms of living. Indeed those years of emancipation and wholesale questioning of the status quo seem to contain, in a still-virulent form, all the problematics of the early 21st century: feminism, multiculturalism, the struggle of sexual minorities, 'new age' spirituality, identitarian and relational experience, ecology, orientalism, decolonization, psychedelicism.... But above all, they constitute a model for rejecting the consumer society." Rejecting the consumer society while stimulating the local economy sounds like having your cake and eating it. But if you feel guilty about your global shopping spree, remember that you'll come home laden only with concepts: multiculturalism, ecology, orientalism, decolonization and the rest. It certainly saves on excess baggage charges. If you're feeling tired or anxious, we can skip the first Luanda Triennial in Angola, happening between March and May 2006. It would be a shame, though; since the demise of the Johannesburg Biennale in the late '90s, Africa has been woefully underrepresented. But you are looking a bit tired, and we haven't even gotten to the airport yet. So what do you say we head straight to the fifth Santa Fe Biennial, curated by Robert Storr? Or even cut that and just catch the Whitney Biennial in New York, curated by two Europeans, Philippe Vergne and Chrissie Iles and titled, relaxingly, "Day For Night"? We did have you booked back to Europe for the fourth Berlin Biennale, curated by Italian maverick Maurizio Cattelan. But seeing how exhausted you look, let's send you straight to the ninth Havana Biennial, followed by the Sydney Biennale (Dr. Charles Merewether, the curator, "is currently writing a book on the cultural history of looting," says the blurb). Then, of course, there's the trendy Sao Paolo Biennial in Brazil. What's that? You want to cut this whole thing short? But you can't, there's still the Busan Biennale in Korea and the Singapore Biennale, which "seeks to reposition the dreams, desires, conflicts and catastrophes found throughout Central Africa, Middle East, South Asia to Southeast Asia, Pacific Ocean and South America, highlighting the artistic practices and discourses that are relevant to the multiplicities of cultural morphing, examined in tandem with the currency of economic flux and influences within each region." You're not in the mood for art? Well, there's always money: The Singapore Biennale, says its website, "will coincide with 'Singapore 2006: Global City. World of Opportunities' ... the annual meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group." Wait, no, don't go! There's still the Liverpool Biennial, held September to November 2006 in Liverpool, England. Yes, Liverpool, hometown of The Beatles. Think of them, sitting there on the dockside of their declining post-industrial city in their caps and winklepickers, waiting for cultural goods to arrive from America -- "race" records, Little Richard! Think of them learning the chords, the riffs, the lyrics, changing those songs around, re-exporting them to the world in the form of a Beat Boom ... and in the process reversing not just the fortunes of their town, but of their homeland itself. Yes, culture can save a city, and art can change the world. Stay with the Mystery Tour!

http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/commentary/imomus/2005/10/69242

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Loading â&#x20AC;&#x153;Digital Art: It's All About L.A.â&#x20AC;?

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8/27/08 2:27 PM

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Digital Art: It's All About L.A. Xeni Jardin

11.01.02

LOS ANGELES -- Fine art and digital media art are as different from one another as paintings are from Internet memes, ideas or phrases that propagate like germs by traveling online from person to person. Conventional wisdom values art partly because it's scarce -- there's only one Mona Lisa, and it isn't hanging in your living room -- but the impact of digital art only increases as it multiplies through spontaneous, viral transmissions. Art will make a detour from the realm of the cultural cognoscenti to the world of karaoke on Nov. 1, when Southern California media art coalition LA Freewaves kicks off its eighth biennial Festival of Experimental Media Arts, "TV or Not TV." The month-long event will be the largest in the group's 13-year history, say organizers, who plan to transform an assortment of urban venues -- from museums to billboards -- into showcases for art. More than 350 artists will present about 300 works at close to 65 venues, including museums, Koreatown pool halls and neighborhood Internet cafes. The festival will also take place on three TV channels, and online. Ambitions are high at this year's gathering: Included in the dozens of events at the 2002 festival will be a series of workshops aimed at launching a new artist-controlled television arts channel by late 2003. "What's not on TV is as significant as what is," said Anne Bray, Freewaves' founder and executive director. "There are more extraterrestrials on television today than Asians, Latinos and Native Americans combined, so there's a lot missing from television's role as a forum for public self-reflection. It's up to us to fill in the blanks." Bray said the trend toward more affordable technology and mobile digital video technology like cameras and desktop editing systems is fueling an explosion of fresh art, new audiences and new artists. "Before, artists had to figure out how to access costly facilities for editing and output," she said. "Now, $5,000 buys you just about everything you need to produce high-quality video artwork." In choosing work for this year's festival, 10 curators evaluated thousands of submissions from around the world. The resulting selections include documentaries, animated films and non-narrative video art, but all share a common thread: Los Angeles. "We selected pieces for their relevance to local audiences, and with hopes that the experience might help audiences elsewhere better understand L.A.," Bray said. Among the events that comprise Freewaves are an evening of lo-fi Internet video art, a video tribute to Nigerian afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti and showcases of media art from Peru, Colombia and the Middle East. Also included in Freewaves 2002 is what organizers are calling "The world's first Internet memefest." Held at an "art laboratory" located in Chinatown on Nov. 1, the event will feature six hours of short screenings and talks by academics, artists and fans speaking about digital memes as a new form of folk art. Memefest organizer Eddo Stern said Friday's event will examine topics of interest to students of Internet culture, like conspiracy theories, celebrity torture, the Slashdot effect and Osama-bin-Laden-as-meme. "We're also going to unveil a real-live meme, which we call the 'Gameman,'" said Stern, "It's the world's only fully http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/news/2002/11/56119

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functional 6-foot Gameboy replica, and it's a marvel." He adds, "Killer memes are like great art -- they just seem to come out of nowhere," he said. "They harness the Net as a medium that's both anonymous and public, and that's what makes them so compelling. They're like online cultural ids."

http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/news/2002/11/56119

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Loading â&#x20AC;&#x153;Europe Getting a Taste of Japanâ&#x20AC;?

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8/27/08 1:23 PM

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Europe Getting a Taste of Japan Elisa Batista

12.20.01

A couple of European mobile operators will kick start the New Year with "i-mode," a popular Internet service for mobile phones that has been restricted until now to Japan. There are 30 million i-mode subscribers in Japan who download stock quotes, read news and play games on their mobile phones with the service. Dutch telco KPN Mobile, of which i-mode's creator NTT DoCoMo owns a 15 percent stake, plans to sample the service to a small number of subscribers on Thursday and then launch it in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium in March 2002. Swedish wireless carrier Telia Mobile said it plans to offer a mobile Internet service similar to i-mode next year. The service, called "PocketMode," will let users download content on their cell phones and pay for it on their mobile phone bills as is done in Japan. Even though i-mode is popular in Japan, KPN is not optimistic it will repeat its success in Europe. KPN's vice president Mark de Jong recently told Britain's Financial Times that his company wasn't banking on imode's success in Europe, but considered the service a stepping stone to next-generation (3G) mobile Internet services. Such 3G services, which allow mobile phone users to stream video on their cell phones, are available only in Japan. --Mobile phone to become playmate: If i-mode doesn't take off in Europe, maybe porn will. Next year, mobile phone users in Finland will be able to download pin-up pictures from adult entertainment company Playboy. An executive from one of the company's partners, Wireless Entertainment Service Finland (WES) recently told Reuters mobile phone users will be able to download "playmates" and any other photograph taken from the company for a "small fee." "On the Internet, sex is the only thing that has been profitable and it's one area we are focusing on," WES CEO Mika Eriksson said. --Palm shows business heft: Flexing its muscle for professionals, Palm (PALM) plans to buy ThinAirApps, a developer of software that lets users gain access to their corporate e-mail and other business data. In a move to boost Palm's ability to help businesses make handheld computers a necessary part of their workforce, Palm said it would pay $19 million in stock for ThinAirApps and offer its services. In another deal that helps make Palm devices more powerful, Palm plans to put chips by Texas Instruments (TXN) in its new line of products. The chips will allow the devices to handle more complex tasks such as playing video clips and surfing the Internet. Meanwhile, Handspring (HAND) is teaming with software developer Neomar to give handheld users access to business applications. http://www.wired.com/print/gadgets/wireless/news/2001/12/49220

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--Microsoft grows a Bluetooth: Two months after launching the operating system, Microsoft (MSFT) said last week its Windows XP operating system would support Bluetooth, a radio that lets devices within 30 feet of each other interact without any wires. Even though Microsoft promised at launch time its operating system would support the 802.11 wireless Ethernet standard, it didn't mention Bluetooth because it wanted to make sure there were "enough (Bluetooth-enabled) devices out there and there were reliable radios," said Tom Laemmel, a Microsoft product manager. "We didn't get reliable radios to test," Laemmel said. "It took some time." With Bluetooth, Windows XP users will be able to tinker with the computer's peripherals wirelessly. --Dialing around: Former Polish monopoly operator Telekomunikacja Polska SA (TP SA) said it would cut between 10,000 and 12,000 jobs -– about one fifth of its workforce -– to compensate for slowing demand for fixed-line services.... BellSouth (BLST5A09) now offers a service that lets companies give employees access to sales, inventory, e-mail and other business information on their cell phones.... Actiontec Electronics released a PC card compatible with the 802.11a wireless Ethernet standard that lets users stream video and other broadband content.... Ben Verwaayen from Lucent Technologies was recently hired as the new chief executive of British Telecommunications.

http://www.wired.com/print/gadgets/wireless/news/2001/12/49220

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8/27/08 2:12 PM

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Eye-Tracking Device Lets Billboards Know When You Look at Them Dan Skeen

06.12.07

Billboards that know when you're looking at them will soon be a reality, if new eye-tracking gear from a Canadian startup makes good on its maker's claims. The eyebox2 from xuuk is a palm-size video camera surrounded by infrared light-emitting diodes. It can record eye contact with 15-degree accuracy at a distance of up to 33 feet. A simple glance from a passerby scores an impression, providing a tally that enables new Google-like measurement metrics that real-world advertisers could only dream about until recently. "It will revolutionize the digital-signage industry because it solves the half-missing part of the business model," explains xuuk CEO Roel Vertegaal, who spent several years developing the gear in the Human Media Lab of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. "Right now they're pushing ads to clients, and they don't even know if those clients are seeing those ads." Vertegaal's team has overcome some traditional barriers to eye-tracking gear by leveraging the red-eye effect that frustrates many photographers, in which light is reflected back to the camera from the subject's retina. The eyebox2 registers a view by deliberately inducing an instance of infrared-eye. When your eyeballs are aimed in its direction, they reflect light back to the camera, which detects the reflection and registers the fact that someone is looking at it. This removes several limitations imposed by common eye-tracking gear, which requires careful calibration for each viewer, is often limited to very short distances and typically costs about $25,000. The eyebox2 sells for $1,000. The digital-signage industry is low-hanging fruit for a product that offers tangible viewer metrics. Until now, methods of measuring the traffic and reach of billboards and plasma displays have been limited to human-conducted site surveys using notepads and tally-counters. Eye-tracking gear has been used in retail settings to learn more about shoppers' viewing habits, but those studies were limited to small sample groups of headgear-wearing volunteers in laboratories. The eyebox2 offers an automated method to find hot spots of eye activity in the real world, and also to assess the effectiveness of specific ads. "This type of technology will have a big influence on how digital-signage media is bought and sold," says Mike Foster, vice president of marketing for MediaTile, a Scotts Valley, California-based provider of digital-signage networks. "It’s extremely important for the industry to know who's seeing the content." But while Vertegaal suggests that the "first" use for xuuk's technology is ambient advertising, he has his sights set on other areas. His grand vision is to use eye activity to create "a mouse for the real world." One potential outcome is more polite devices: Cell phones that won't ring when you're in a conversation, hearing aids that amplify the person you are looking at and TV sets that turn off when you're not watching them. Vertegaal compares it to the office colleague who might wait in your doorway to establish eye contact before interrupting. "Eye contact is used to negotiate attention, and it’s fascinating how it works in humans," Vertegaal says. "We can have technology do the same thing."

http://www.wired.com/print/gadgets/miscellaneous/news/2007/06/eyetracking

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8/27/08 1:37 PM

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Finnish Touches on New Media Art Reena Jana

09.02.00

When the tech savvy think of Finland, they often think of wireless telecommunications giant Nokia or the revolutionary operating system Linux. But a new art exhibition set to open at the University of California, Los Angeles, on September 16 promises to introduce the artsy, creative side of Finland -- with a technical twist, of course. F2F: New Media Art from Finland features experimental, interactive installations by 12 Finnish artists who work primarily with sensors, scanners, the Web, telecommunications technology, and other new media tools. Starting at UCLA's New Wight Gallery, it's the first major exhibition to concentrate on Finland's burgeoning new media art scene. From there it is scheduled to tour yet-unnamed venues in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York in the next two years. The show was organized by two Finnish-born curators who reside in New York. Juulia Kauste is executive director of the Finnish Foundation for the Visual Arts. Her husband, Marko Tandefelt, is an interface and concept designer, and the 1998 recipient of New York University's Tisch Artist Pioneering Award in Interactive Media. The exhibition is intended to show Americans that Finland is also a rich source for innovative and meaningful content, rather than merely technological breakthroughs. "F2F" is short for face-to-face, which is how they want Americans to experience them. "It's important to concentrate on creative content development on an international stage, since everyone loves to talk about content but no one really seems to know what 'content' really means," Tandefelt said. Despite the promise of fresh new faces from the under-exposed Finnish art world, followers of new media art might recognize some names on the "F2F" roster. Marita Liulia is a past winner of the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica, awarded at the annual Ars Electronica international media festival in Linz, Austria. On view at "F2F" is her latest CD-ROM, "SOB," a game-like foray into the virtual apartment of a fictional "masculinity expert." Work by the team of Andy Best and Merha Puustinen was showcased at Siggraph last year. Their Net art piece, "Ice Borg," shown in "F2F," presents the site's visitors with a virtual world of a desolate, abandoned mining asteroid. During the exhibition, live performances featuring choreographed avatars will be streamed into the virtual environment. Equally strong are works by complete unknowns. The katastro.fi media art collective, for example, will present "mirror ++," a hybrid between an experimental instrument and an interactive painting. The installation utilizes customized software to translate audience movements into psychedelic real-time 3-D graphics. Young media artist Tuomo Tammenpää, working with the production company Mindworks, will present "Need," one of the show's more playful yet sinister pieces. It consists of a Web-based marketing campaign for an artificial, simulated brand with no actual product. Mindworks is building a "shop" for the Need brand to complement the Need website.

http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/news/2000/09/38468

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New media theorists are excited that Finnish techno-art is finally getting the worldwide attention they say it deserves. "I've been working with the Finnish new media art community for over six years, and have found that it is one of the most advanced in the world, along with Germany and Japan," said Dr. Lev Manovich, associate visual arts professor at the University of California, San Diego. He is author of the forthcoming book The Language of New Media. Ironically, the presentation of Finnish new media art in the context of the artists' national origin could ghetto-ize their work, circumscribing the work as simply Finnish, rather than establishing the artists as players on a global level. But "F2F" artist Andy Best thinks the show isn't really about Finland, but instead is a trade show-like presentation of interesting ideas. "The exhibition shows a wide range of new media art projects," he said. "The nationality has no importance." Artist Tuomo Tammenpää agrees. "This is more of an expo than a traditional art exhibition," Tammenpää said. "Although it's rare that one nation presents a selection of work in one field of art -- which makes it more interesting." Manovich believes that showing new media art within a nation-specific focus provides a helpful context for new media theorists and researchers. "Shows that focus on a particular nation can be quite important," Manovich said. "Today one of the hot topics is globalization. Does the wiring of the world into a single network lead to the diminishing of national cultural differences? Looking at digital art from different countries can be a particularly good way to address this question."

http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/news/2000/09/38468

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Loading â&#x20AC;&#x153;It's a Wireless World in Japanâ&#x20AC;?

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8/27/08 1:25 PM

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It's a Wireless World in Japan Reuters

06.20.00

TOKYO -- Japan is increasingly embracing the Internet as a part of everyday life, but the world's second-largest economy is doing so in its own way. More than a third of Net surfers access the Web using wireless technology. The explosive growth of Internet-compatible mobile phones, where users browse the Web on a screen the size of a business card, is being credited for the doubling of Internet usage in Japan in 1999. One in five Japanese -- just over 27 million people -- has an Internet connection, according to a report issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). Industry data shows about 10 million logged on through mobile connections, 13 percent of the population or penetration rate. Private analysts have cautioned that government data tends to underestimate Internet usage because of its rapid growth. The number of users is expected to triple to 76.7 million by 2005, three-fifths of Japan's population, according to the MPT. By comparison, the United States, which has roughly twice the population of Japan, is said to already have more than 100 million Internet users, a penetration rate of about 40 percent. Japan is a study in contrasts, where its reputation as a leading industrial power was once at risk of being tarnished because of its tardy entry into the Internet age. But by leveraging its expertise in miniaturization and the high rate of mobile phone usage, Japan has spawned a new industry based on Internet-compatible cellular phones. Two out of every five Japanese now owns a mobile phone, and last year, the number of mobile phone subscribers outstripped the number of conventional land lines. By 2005, nearly 80 million Japanese are seen subscribing to some form of mobile service, the MPT report estimated. The next step for Japan would be to transform such growth into a vibrant e-commerce market. The MPT survey estimated the Internet market for finished goods was worth 350 billion yen ($3.3 billion) in 1999 and projected a 20-fold surge by 2005. That still pales in comparison to the U.S. e-commerce market for finished goods, which was estimated at $340 billion in 1999. Japan's mobile Internet-access market, however, is trapped within its archipelago, since its systems are not compatible with wireless systems overseas like the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard. In a move that will open its markets and allow it to export and move into overseas markets, Japan plans to adopt the new WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phone standard next spring, which will make its cellular phones compatible with those in other countries using the standard. Despite the popularity of mobile phones in Japan, the MPT survey showed it still lagged other nations, such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Scandinavia -- all of which use the GMS standard. http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/news/2000/06/37099

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Internet growth in Japan could have come much sooner and its obstructive telecommunications infrastructure is partly to blame. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) controls more than 90 percent of local lines connecting homes and businesses. Such domination, analysts say, has made it more expensive for Internet users to surf the Web at home. Ironically, it was NTT's more innovative mobile phone subsidiary, NTT DoCoMo, that played a major role in stimulating Internet usage by developing an easier and more cost-effective way to browse the Web on mobile phones. But NTT is under ever-increasing pressure. The United States has put NTT's interconnection charges at the center of its latest trade dispute with Japan, demanding the giant carrier slash its interconnection fees. Both sides are reportedly hoping to settle the issue before a U.S.-Japan summit expected around July 20, just before the Group of Eight Okinawa summit, which Japan has been touting as the "IT Summit." NTT has already bowed to some pressure and last month halved its flat-rate unlimited Internet access fee. If the Japanese telecommunication market is opened wider to foreign competition, NTT's rates could come down even more and spur further growth.

http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/news/2000/06/37099

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Loading “Japanese Schoolgirl Watch: Transform Yourself in a Dressing Room for Hire”

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8/27/08 1:06 PM

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WIRED MAGAZINE: 16.09

Japanese Schoolgirl Watch: Transform Yourself in a Dressing Room for Hire By Brian Ashcraft

08.18.08

Illustration: Pietari Posti START

PREVIOUS: Blimpin' Ain't Easy: Crossing

the English Channel in a Pedal-Powered

Many Japanese gals lead double lives: Mild-mannered students in plainJane uniforms by day; French maids, furries, and goth Lolitas by night. Legions run around Tokyo, wheeling suitcases full of makeup and

http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/magazine/16-09/st_jsgw

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the English Channel in a Pedal-Powered Airship

costumes. But Superman had a phone booth — where are schoolgirls supposed to suit up? Luckily, Japanese company COS-Pa has introduced tiny dressing rooms for women in the trendy Shibuya district, where 500 to 700 yen (roughly $5 to $6) buys 30 minutes of private mirror time, free Wi-Fi, beauty supplies, and a nonalcoholic beverage. Says COS-Pa's owner firmly: "Ladies should not have to get beautiful in a bathroom."

http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/magazine/16-09/st_jsgw

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8/27/08 2:02 PM

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Jeff Han: We're Just Scratching the Surface of Multitouch By Bryan Gardiner

08.26.08

Jeff Han demos one of Perceptive Pixel’s multitouch devices by calling up various Minority Report photos from the Web on his virtual keyboard. With a flick of his finger, he severs Tom Cruise's head from his body and sets it frenetically bobbing across the screen. Photo courtesy Bryan Gardiner, Wired.com SAN JOSE, California -- Jeff Han has some simple advice for companies thinking about how to integrate the latest interface technology into their products: Start over. "It's like Yoda said, you must unlearn what you've learned," he says, referring to the 40 years that the mouse and keyboard have dictated how we interact with computers. Admittedly, that's no easy task, so the multitouch pioneer and his company, Perceptive Pixel, have devoted the better part of two years to building an entirely new multitouch framework from the ground up. Instead of simply mapping multitouch technology to familiar interfaces and devices, Han's goal is far more sweeping: To use the technology as a foundation for an entirely new operating system. http://www.wired.com/print/gadgets/miscellaneous/news/2008/08/qa_han

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That would be an ambitious goal for anyone, but it might be within reach for Han, who until two years ago was virtually unknown outside of academia. His demonstration of a multitouch display, which was sensitive not just to one finger (or a stylus) but to each of a user's ten digits, wowed the crowd at TED in 2006 and put multitouch on the map. Since then, Han's company has put multitouch screens on CNN and the Democratic National Convention, among other places. Microsoft's multitouch-enabled table, the Surface, has been showing up in Las Vegas casinos. And Apple's iPhone has shown that multitouch can be wildly popular, leading many other companies to try adding multitouch and other innovative interfaces to their own products. Wired.com caught up with Han shortly after he joined Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang onstage at the inaugural Nvision visual-computing conference on Monday. Wired.com: You mentioned it in your TED talk two years ago and you brought it up again today: We've been tethered to the keyboard and mouse for close to 40 years. So how far has multitouch technology really come over the past couple years? And is it any closer to freeing us from the tyranny of the mouse and keyboard? Jeff Han: Well, the reason why multitouch is really exciting is because … we realized immediately it's really an undiscovered country. We knew there was a lot of mileage to be had by entering this field. So, really, on a high level, I can honestly tell you we're just scratching the surface with multitouch. The progress we've been making, and the progress other research groups and companies out there have been making, that's still seminal stuff. There's a lot more we have to figure out. Some of the really trivial things -- like taking two fingers and zooming into a picture -- that's done. But the kind of stuff we really think will unlock this technology is not just simple extensions to the keyboard and mouse stuff. I see companies out there starting to do some multitouch stuff -- and all they do is remap to the standard way we interact with computers. Wired.com: Yeah, it seems like today multitouch is really more of a technology that's just slapped on top of the normal interfaces we're all accustomed to. Han: Well, there are two reasons for that. One, it's really hard to unlearn the mouse. When you've grown up and have been living and breathing the GUI and the WIMP (window, icon, menu, pointing) interface, it's actually really hard to think differently. Two -- and this is why our company has been spending a lot of time and energy on the software side of things -- it turns out that no operating system right now really understands multitouch at a fundamental level. What we've been really spending our energy on is this framework. We even have to throw away the traditional event model … and dispense with some of that lower-level machinery and pull it out. Right now, no operating system will work that way except in a graft-on format. What we've done is essentially rebuilt that entire stack. We did it because there was enough stuff to actually pull out. We didn't want to. Frankly, nobody really wants to rebuild something like that, but we knew there would be some payoffs. It took a lot of time, but since the TED 2006 talk, that's what we've been doing -- just the fundamental behind-the-scenes stuff, the foundational work. Wired.com: During your demos, you tend to use pretty beefy screens. You also talk a lot about how multitouch is also fundamentally about being multi-user. For the types of interfaces and user experiences you envision, are these bigger screens going to be a necessity? Han: The thing to keep in mind with all of our work is that we're not really advocating replacements. Multitouch is natural and useful for different modes [of computing] that may be inappropriate for the keyboard and the mouse. But there's always going to be things that the keyboard and mouse excel at. That said, we really see multitouch's potential being unlocked when you make it large. When you think of multitouch as "ubiquitous" or "pervasive" computing -- words that have been thrown around a lot in the past ten years -ironically, there are really two ways to do such computing: Giant wall displays and personal ones that you carry with you all the time. [They are] totally different spectrums though. http://www.wired.com/print/gadgets/miscellaneous/news/2008/08/qa_han

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Loading â&#x20AC;&#x153;Jeff Han: We're Just Scratching the Surface of Multitouchâ&#x20AC;?

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Wired.com: At the time of your 2006 TED talk, you said there was very little investment flowing into multitouch. We now have a hugely successful product that has captured the attention of consumers and the tech industry alike. How does the multitouch landscape evolve from here? Han: I think there's going to be an ecosystem out there. I don't think there's going to be one dominant player. There's a danger, however, in that it's a bit of a gold rush land grab at the moment. It took a long time to make a GUI out of the elements of a mouse: The dropdown menus, the buttons, the dialogue box and everything else associated with it. It's going to be dangerous having multiple parties all doing this with multitouch on their own, saying we think this three-point gesture should be interpreted this way, and so on. Wired.com: We've actually already explored whether there could be a coming patent battle over multitouch gestures as the technology gets more pervasive. So, based on those dangers you just highlighted, do you yourself patent your own gestures? Han: A lot of our research is coming up with gestures or manipulation metaphors. We have a general framework that a lot of the stuff shakes out of, actually. In terms of patents, as a small company, it's very important for us to protect our IP. So we do actively file patents both on hardware and software sides. Wired.com: But for the technology to become truly pervasive isn't it important to have, say, a universal series of gestures that everyone can agree on? Han: That's a great question. In order for this ecosystem to survive, there's going to have to be some standards bodies that say even though we're competitors, let's agree on some terminology, let's agree on some sub-gestures that none of us technically own. The problem is, multitouch is such a hyped field right now, it's very, very tempting for companies to start saying: Oh, we have multitouch, too. Now multitouch is starting to have all these different meanings that all of us don't necessarily agree on. Our definition of multitouch -- and we're starting to use the term true multitouch -- means an arbitrary number of finger points at the same time, or styluses, or any other object really. But there are other companies that take a more constrained view. Multi means more than one in English, right? So there's a two-touch system that is out there. And they're calling it multitouch. That's terrible because those are the kind of unsynchronized efforts by different players that can really cause a lot of harm for the rest of the industry. Wired.com: So if we're just scratching the surface with multitouch, where do you see things going? Obviously we have one very popular multitouch device: the iPhone. But the technology is also migrating to the desktop, although multitouch capable PCs seem like awkward hybrid devices. They seem sort of gimmicky. Han: One of the things that makes us a little different from the other players out there is that we're not trying to go right to the home. Because there's still so much unknown stuff in the multitouch space, we're trying to figure out how this technology is useful for things like productivity first -- how is it useful in specialized markets. And then we hopefully learn a lot there and see how it's applicable to the rest of the consumer market. I actually think it's very important to start using these systems not as gimmicks or for doing things like, say, ordering drinks at a restaurant. Instead, let's see how useful this will be for helping collaboration in a creative company or for info visualization or presentation. Wired.com: Like the "Magic Wall" you built for CNN. Han: Right. But stuff where the technology really impacts a lot of people. Honestly, those are the application areas that we're learning the most from. How does a CAD designer manipulate multiple parts of a building or engine with only his hands? Those are the tough questions. That's why we chose to go after those markets for now. Plus, by the time we get to the consumer, we won't be experimenting anymore. We'll know that this is the way to do things. http://www.wired.com/print/gadgets/miscellaneous/news/2008/08/qa_han

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Wired.com So, aside from building a new multitouch OS from the ground up, what else have you been working on? And long term, will multitouch simply give way to multi-gesture, as in Minority Report? Han: One of the things we're working on that we're really excited about is the fact that our devices use pressure information. They actually know how hard you're pressing on them with each of your fingers. So there's a neat thing we're going to show off in a couple months where we're using the pressure information to actually help you manage those 2D objects on the screen. You'll be able to push things and slip things underneath each other. It's extremely elegant and it actually works on single touch too. The answer to the second question is: I hate Minority Report. I hate pure gestural interfaces because they actually work very poorly. It's been proven. The human body really needs that kind of tactile feedback. However, combining it with touch, I do believe that for a future far out there, integrating the two together may actually be more successful that each one on its own.

http://www.wired.com/print/gadgets/miscellaneous/news/2008/08/qa_han

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Loading â&#x20AC;&#x153;New Media Gets Its Due in New German Museumâ&#x20AC;?

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8/27/08 1:39 PM

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New Media Gets Its Due in New German Museum Reena Jana

10.17.97

The new site of Karlsruhe's Center for Art and Media, ZKM, represents one of Germany's most ambitious cultural projects in history - especially with its daring agenda to highlight new-media art in a permanent space alongside sculpture and painting. But there hasn't been much fanfare in the press before its public opening on 18 October. And why not? "We knew that once the center opened, its wealth of innovative features would provide the best promotion of all," states ZKM chairman Heinrich Klotz. The complex, which occupies 41,800 square meters in a former factory building and boasts a first-year operating budget of 14 million deutsche marks, links more traditional forms of contemporary art, such as painting, sculpture, and graphic design, with works in new media, such as photography, holography, and video, in two juxtaposed museum buildings, ZKM|Museum for Contemporary Art and ZKM|Media Museum. Accompanying these two centerpieces are the Municipal Gallery of the City of Karlsruhe and the Academy of Design; in two years, a "Collectors' Museum" is planned for unveiling. These figures identify ZKM as one of Europe's biggest contemporary art centers. The Hamburg-based architects Schweger and Partners maintained the industrial look of the original edifice that hosts the new complex, which was built in 1918 and survived World War II. The singular most striking alteration of the space is the blue, cube-shaped glass building that houses a music studio, which required technical features unavailable in the older buildings. The futuristic cube is a surprisingly harmonious presence alongside the historic building, illustrating the center's synergistic pairing of old and new forms. "It's the first time to my knowledge that traditional art and new-media art are shown side by side in a permanent location," states French-born artist Laurent Mignonneau, whose work is on display at ZKM. "Because they're shown side by side, a parallel value can be drawn in the audience's mind." Mignonneau feels that such a context for new-media art provides a deeper significance beyond the implied comparative validity of older and newer art forms. "The fact that there is an unchanging structure for art utilizing the new technologies signifies that a true field in art historical scholarship is being developed. New-media art isn't just a movement anymore - movements come and go - but something more tangible and lasting." The ZKM|Museum for Contemporary Art occupies 3,500 square meters and showcases a diverse collection of pieces that have been systematically amassed since 1989. On view are works considered to be "classic" art pieces in the stillblossoming genre of media art, including Nam June Paik's "Passage" and video art by Bruce Nauman. Also on display are photographs by the likes of Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky, as well as sculptures by Ulrich Rueckriem and the currently in-demand Christian Boltanski. Its sister building, the ZKM|Media Museum, is based on a different concept: It is purely interactive. Hands-on, hightech installations provoke the museum visitor to investigate and draw their own conclusions about how new technologies affect everyday life. Most of these installations were commissioned exclusively for ZKM and address exact themes. "Media Bodies" conveys, in mainly representational images, how the human body is evolving thanks to technological manipulation. "The World of Games" is a working "laboratory" where visitors play with videogames while also learning about the controversial issues surrounding them (such as the level of violence present in the games). Also included in the Media Museum is an interactive art gallery, which exhibits seminal pieces determined as important in the development of new-media "interactive art," such as Lynn Hershman's "Lorna." Observes Peter Richards, the director of Arts Programs at San Francisco's Exploratorium, the world's first interactive museum of science, art, and perception, "The opening of the new ZKM represents a considerable commitment by the German government to the production and acquisition of new-media art. It is certainly recognition of the power that http://www.wired.com/print/culture/lifestyle/news/1997/10/7787

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this medium possesses and recognition of the potential this medium has for influencing the way people think." Related Wired Links: CoMA Fest Wants to Wake Up Computer Culture 2.Oct.97

Considering the Virtual Museum 2.Sep.97

All the Web's a Stage for Nonprofit Influence 26.Nov.96

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Loading â&#x20AC;&#x153;Soon, Marketing Will Follow Youâ&#x20AC;?

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8/27/08 2:27 PM

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Soon, Marketing Will Follow You Daniel Terdiman

12.16.03

Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories' forthcoming system does more than simply projecting video marketing messages onto a wall. It uses up to 20 sensors, as well as facial-recognition technology, to target prospective customers with demographically tailored advertisements. To hear Paco Underhill tell it, the scene in Steven Spielberg's futuristic Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise's character is besieged by video advertising targeted directly at him as he walks down the street, is, even today, more than pure science fiction. Already, thanks to cell-phone technology that can track subscribers' whereabouts, retailers have access to technology that can tell when a particular customer walks into a store. With that information in hand, stores could conceivably tailor marketing messages to people based on demographic data or on answers to questions they were asked when they signed up for cell-phone service. And while consumers may wish for less-intrusive advertising, it appears, short of permanently shutting their wallets, they may not be able to fend off the coming wave of mobile-target marketing. "It isn't futuristic, it's right now, it's real," says Underhill, author of the bestseller Why We Buy. "That technology's out there now. It's just a matter of finding people willing to pay for it." Today, Underhill says, retailers face a real challenge: Fashioning advertising technology that both takes advantage of the latest innovations coming out of research labs and actually resonates with consumers. But while Underhill says that task is not easy, he also says it can be done -- now. Shane Booth, a researcher at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories, or MERL, believes he's found one approach that works. When it comes to market, it could change the way in-store merchandising is done. Booth's team is developing a system that projects product information onto a wall. As a customer approaches the wall, the system senses that someone is getting closer and alters the message it projects, incorporating data about the person gleaned through facial-recognition technology. The closer the customer approaches, the more specific the information gets. Eventually, the message would focus on the actual product the person is handling. Booth says that his team's system is based on more than 20 sensors that evaluate where people are in relationship to a display. And, because the display is projected rather than on a fixed screen, it can be directed anywhere. More importantly, the system can sense how people are reacting to the messages by tracking whether they are approaching the product and continuing to watch the ad or turning away. That information then gets reported to managers. "If you put that data to use, it's a big amount of data about who's looking at (products), for how long, what they're looking at, and it's all real-time data," says Booth. "Imagine being the store manager in the back, seeing this display. If (messages) aren't working, the displays learn who's looking at it, and can cater" the message. Perhaps more scary, admits Booth, is that the system also can tailor messages to individuals based on demographic information it gathers about them as they walk around a store. That is done through facial-recognition technology built into the system that can determine race, age and sex. Thus, demographically tailored messages can be projected instantly onto a wall near specific customers. http://www.wired.com/print/science/discoveries/news/2003/12/61597

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Loading â&#x20AC;&#x153;Soon, Marketing Will Follow Youâ&#x20AC;?

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The goal, explains Booth, is to find new ways of luring customers and keeping them engaged with marketing messages and products. The more time they spend looking at a video product display, the more likely it is that they will buy that product. Of course, says Booth, the magic here is not just in the technology but in devising the content. "Content is king. The system could (be) smart, but if your content sucks, people aren't going to watch," he says. Underhill agrees, and says merchants need to recast their beliefs regarding how long customers are going to pay attention to messages. He explains that often, digital signage is programmed with 15 seconds of content, while customers may turn away after four seconds. Thus, he says, rather than trying to find ways to get customers to stick around for the full 15 seconds, marketers should instead make those four seconds count. "You don't want to run into other people, you're with somebody else, or there's a pretty girl across the (way). There's a number of things competing for your visual focus," says Underhill. "One of the historical ways that we deliver successful information is delivering it to people on the move, and rather than stopping, they have to slow down." Underhill says one of the technologies he's seen recently that might make a difference to retailers is an IBM system, still in development, that projects images at angles off of walls. Thus, by putting such a system in the corner of a room, the same image can be projected onto four different walls, maximizing the effect. Another advantage of such a system to retailers, Underhill says, is that it could be far cheaper than investing in costly plasma displays. Of course, IBM also is putting its energies into new plasma technologies geared to retailers. "If you simply put up plasma screens ... everybody goes, 'Wow, they look nice,'" says Warren Hart, vice president of digital media at IBM. "But if you only run TV ads, you're wasting your time.... Unless what you're doing is thoughtfully designed, you're not engaging the consumer." With that in mind, IBM is developing technology that allows retailers to draw from a database of digital content that can be changed instantly and can be chosen to appeal to customers based on time of day, weather, sex, age and other factors. Further, the content can be transmitted to plasma displays wirelessly, with individual screens showing different content. All of this can be controlled remotely and in ways that store managers feel best promote the stores' products. But Underhill cautions that retailers have to be careful what technologies they get excited about. In his consulting practice at Envirosell, Underhill says he often finds that merchants have spent so much money on digital technology that they don't have any cash left for the software they need to keep it up-to-date. Another common problem is that the technologies that excite marketers commonly repel the people they're trying to target. Oftentimes, consumers find ultra-targeted marketing frustrating, a reaction exacerbated by the fact that there's not much they can do to make it go away. As Underhill puts it, "One of the poignancies of our era is that our technology has moved at lightning speeds past what our privacy laws are. "One of the realities of our lives is that we have a consumer base out there that is reacting very badly to some of the ways technology and marketing have met," he says.

http://www.wired.com/print/science/discoveries/news/2003/12/61597

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2.02: Wiring Japan

8/27/08 1:11 PM

Wiring Japan A bitter culture clash has reduced Japan to a third-rate power in networking. By Bob Johnstone

At precisely 8:00 on the evening of Friday, September 17, 1993, Japan's first commercial Internet packets flashed out of Tokyo and down Trans-Pacific Cable No. 4, bound for San Jose, California. A new era in Japanese networking had begun. As befits the birth of a new business, cheers went up and toasts were made. But not everybody was rejoicing in Tokyo that night - for Japan's first commercial Internet packets were sent by American engineers working for Japanese subsidiaries of the US corporations InterCon Systems and AT&T. InterCon's first customer was TWICS, Japan's first public access Internet provider, a small for-profit firm most of whose 400-odd subscribers are foreigners based in Japan. Across town, a group of Japanese Internet pioneers were grinding their teeth in frustration. The company they had set up to provide commercial Internet services had been denied a license to operate by Japan's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Holding up the locals while waving on the foreigners is not the way business is usually done in Japan. Something odd is going on. That something, in essence, is the head-on collision of two cultures: The freewheeling, democratic style of the Internet has run smack into traditional Japan at its most authoritarian. On one side, you have the technology pioneers, young volunteers who built Japan's largest research network by their own efforts, without any support from the Japanese government. They are led by Jun Murai, the man some Americans (like Carl Malamud and Howard Rheingold) call the Internet samurai. On the other, you have the officials charged with providing network services to the Japanese research community. They have tried to ram unpopular standards and technolo-gy down users' throats - and failed. Their leader is Hiroshi Inose, arguably Japan's most powerful technocrat. The officials resent the pioneers' early successes and are waging a dirty-tricks campaign to try to regain the upper hand. Through their arrogant behavior, the pioneers have played into hands of their rivals, who are masters of the bureaucratic game. Today, the situation has degenerated into a highly emotional conflict, with each side hurling accusations and insults at the other. Little TWICS has been caught in the crossfire. In mid November, the company's long-standing domestic e-mail connection via Tokyo University was suddenly cut off, apparently in retaliation for TWICS having opted to use a non-Japanese Internet link. Then the company received an intimidating phone call from a man claiming to represent the computer center at Tokyo University. "Stop doing business in Japan!" the man shouted, "Shut down at once!" (TWICS has since been reconnected.) "It's one of the trickiest messes I've seen in years," comments Internet luminary David Farber, a University of Pennsylvania professor who tracks developments in Japan. It is also a mess that matters. For, as Farber points out, what the Japanese do affects the rest of us. And while Japan may be the world's second-largest economic power, the Japanese remain dangerously isolated. Networking has the power to change that by bringing Japan closer to the international community. But by the same token, failure to log on to the world's largest network

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.02/wiring.japan_pr.html

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could leave Japan more isolated than ever. The massive proliferation of the Internet has left the Japanese far behind. As of June 1993, Japan had roughly five networks for every 100 in the United States. Outbound NSFNet traffic from Japan that month was 42,000 Mbytes, roughly the same as that from Taiwan, a country with one sixth Japan's population, and less than half that from Australia, the Pacific Rim's most aggressive network user. Young Japanese have heard about the Internet and they are eager to get access to it. The irony is that the very people who should be encouraging them to log on are instead preventing them. The best way to reach Jun Murai, associate professor at Keio University, is, surprisingly, not by e-mail. Instead, you ask one of his acolytes to track him down for you. Initial contact with Murai - via his car phone - is encouraging: "You want to do [the interview] over a beer, or dinner, or what?" he asks. On meeting Murai, you quickly realize why he is so popular with his Internet counterparts elsewhere. In a country where most academics still wear suits, Murai wears an ancient sports shirt, a beer gut tumbling over his black jeans. He looks a bit like a bear, an impression his deep, rumbling voice reinforces. And while vagueness is regarded as a virtue in Japan, Murai comes straight to the point. Ten years ago, when Murai was just 28 years old, the Japanese research community was debating how to take advantage of deregulation to install communications networks. Discussion centered around which of the proposed Open Systems Interconnection architectures to adopt. To Murai, such meetings were a waste of time: "I was young, and that was boring," he says. "What I wanted was to have a network, to do actual operation and development, so that we could find out what the problems related to computers and communications were, then solve them." So he and some friends rolled up their sleeves and started laying cable. Their first effort was the immodestly titled JUNET, a dial-up modem service offered over public phone lines. It proved immediately popular with Japanese academics starved for e-mail, especially after Murai made it possible for them to enter text using Japanese characters. Encouraged, Murai went on to launch a more ambitious project in 1987, the Widely Interconnected Distributed Environment, or WIDE. A backbone network, WIDE is based on leased lines that interconnect local area networks. Owning leased lines is very expensive in Japan, and to pay for them, Murai turned to commercial firms like Sony and Canon. Once again, the network proved popular - today, it connects some 30 research institutes and 40 companies. WIDE also has a link, via the University of Hawaii, to NASA's Ames Research Center, through which Japanese researchers can communicate with their US counterparts. Indeed, WIDE became such a hit that Murai was forced to turn down requests for connections. A second headache was that companies were not necessarily confining their use of the network to research, as required under the Japanese government's extremely strict definition of appropriate use. An obvious solution to both problems was to set up a company to offer commercial Internet services. In December 1992, Murai and some of his students formed Internet Initiative Japan (IIJ). This is the company to which the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications refuses to grant an operating license. Jun Murai's success is a thorn in the flesh of Shoichiro Asano, a former Tokyo University professor who is in charge of day-to-day operations at Japan's National Center for Science Information Systems (NACSIS). This organization was formed to provide network information services for university researchers. As an official organization, supported by Japan's Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture, the Center naturally opted to use officially sanctioned technology, notably the Open Systems Interconnection protocols, which were first proposed in the early 1980s. Trouble was, it took a lot longer than originally anticipated for the committees in charge of developing these protocols to come up with the goods, and even when they did, many found them cumbersome and needlessly complex. Meanwhile, back in the US, an ad hoc set of protocols known as TCP/IP was spreading like wildfire. Establishment engineers turned up their noses at these protocols, sniffing that they had been designed by young cowboys and were too sloppy for any self-respecting network to use. Maybe they were - and the protocol issue still divides the engineering com-munity with all the ferocity ofa religious schism - but by the beginning of this decade, TCP/IP had become the de facto standard for networking in most of the world. It now has an installed base three to five orders of magnitude larger than that of Open Systems Interconnection. In 1991, realizing that it had backed the wrong horse, NACSIS at last began to convert its network to support TCP/IP. By that time, however, WIDE was firmly http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.02/wiring.japan_pr.html

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established in the eyes of the Internet community as Japan's front-runner. That a lowly assistant professor and his rag-tag band of graduate students should have attained such status seems to have embittered Asano, a disheveled and shifty-looking individual in his early 50s. Mention Murai to him and he becomes animated. "For five years, Jun Murai has done dirty things to [the Center]," he complains. Many of these "dirty things" concern Internet Initiative Japan. For example, Asano accuses Murai of being its "shadow leader." (Japanese academics are not supposed to sully their hands through contacts with business.) He also charges that IIJ has attempted to use American pressure in various forms to force the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to issue the group an operating license. None of this would matter much if it were just a case of sour grapes. Unfortunately, however, Asano has the backing of the director of NACSIS, Hiroshi Inose; that gives him the power to do Murai - and, by extension, the spread of Japanese networking - considerable harm. In a society that reveres seniority, the 67-year-old Inose is about as senior as you can get. Back around 1957, as a young electrical engineer consulting at Bell Laboratories, Inose won a basic patent on time division multiplexing, a key technology for combining several calls on the same line, one which all modern telecommunications switching systems use. This reflects a caliber of achievement that few Japanese academics can match. In later life, Inose became dean of Tokyo University's prestigious engineering school, taking up his current position as director of NACSIS upon his retirement from the university. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, an IEEE fellow, and has a string of other awards and prizes to his name. Prime among them is his designation by the Japanese government as a person of cultural merit, an honor carrying tremendous status in Japan. Today, Inose chairs many of the key policy committees at both the ministries of Trade and Industry, and Posts and Telecommunications. His former students hold senior positions at leading Japanese electronics firms. Indeed, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that few Japanese involved in information technology are not beholden to Inose in some way. Inose was not available to be interviewed for this article: His schedule was booked up for two months. But most people who have met him are struck by his charm and gentility. Hell, the man even writes poetry. But inside the velvet glove is an iron fist. Many Japanese criticize Inose for throwing his weight around, but few dare to do so openly. One of the few is technology journalist Yukihiro Furuse. In the November issue of the monthly magazine Shincho 45, Furuse writes that "probably no one can criticize [Inose] because he has absolute power and he is senior to everybody." Furuse recognizes that networking is of crucial importance to Japan's future. And he is concerned that Inose's behind-the-scenes style is not the best way to promote its growth. One specific charge made by Furuse and others against Inose is that he has used his influence with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications to prevent IIJ from getting an operating license. Another is that he leaned on the Ministry of Trade and Industry to prohibit a new computer research project it was supporting from using IIJ to provide network services. Why should Inose care about a bunch of young upstarts like Murai et al? "Professor Inose represents the old establishment," suggests one senior telecommunications executive, "and their idea is that government and national universities should always stay in the center, delivering and exchanging information." In the US, the acceptable-use policy for the Internet was designed to promote the growth of commercial Internet services. The Japanese acceptable-use policy seems by contrast aimed at preventing the growth of Internetworking beyond the ivory towers. David Farber, who has known Inose for many years, insists that his friend is acting purely in the national interest and for the benefit of the education community. Farber says that Inose is worried about IIJ's claims that it can provide network services for Japan's university researchers at an affordable price. In addition to rendering NACSIS superfluous, this could also lead to the education ministry cutting off much-needed financial support for networks. An IIJ spokesperson confirms that the company had planned to offer an academic discount plan but were told by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications that licensed carriers would not be allowed to discriminate between different types of customers. IIJ is currently providing customers with domestic network service, which it can do without a special license. "Inose believes that achieving a successful conclusion is a slow, careful process that keeps the support of the education ministry," Farber says. "He gets upset with the cowboy approach" taken by Jun Murai and his associates at IIJ. Inose is not the only one upset by IIJ's behavior. Some of the blame for the current conflict must also go to IIJ's manage-ment, and in particular, to the company's president and CEO, Hiroyuki Fukase. Fukase is an engineer by training, not a businessman. He has needlessly antagonized potential investors by asking for money, then http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.02/wiring.japan_pr.html

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neglecting to perform the follow-up visits that Japanese business etiquette demands. Worse, he has annoyed Hikaru Chono, director of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications' computer communications division and the official in charge of issuing the license IIJ needs to provide international Internet services. In Japan, it pays to treat bureaucrats with respect. They form, after all, an elite, and have dedicated themselves to serving their country, working long hours in overcrowded conditions for low pay. The quid pro quo is power. Visit a Japanese government office and you will see a constant stream of supplicants who come to beg for official favor. Chono is a prime example of the bureaucratic breed. A graduate of Tokyo University's law school, he has paid his dues - including a stint as Japan's representative at the CCITT (the international telephony committee) in Geneva, and a year as a postmaster in a remote part of northern Japan. He has been involved with telecommunications since 1975, and he is tired of it. In particular, he is fed up with Fukase. "IIJ is a very difficult company for me to understand," he sighs, "they've done lots of publicity and marketing, they've published their tariffs in journals and magazines, but they haven't finished the formalities." What Chono needs is a letter of guarantee from a financial backer. "If they complete all the necessary documents," he says, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications will issue a license "within 15 days, maximum." Fukase claims to have found a backer, the Industrial Bank of Japan, but accuses Chono of having warned the bank not to deliver the letter of guarantee. Such accusations are typical of Fukase's bull-in-a-chinashop style. In early 1993, he upset the ministry by arranging for a letter from a friend in the US National Science Foundation in support of IIJ's license application to be delivered via the US Embassy in Tokyo. Asano accuses IIJ of urging US equipment manufacturers to criticize the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications for preventing them from doing business in Japan. Such heavy-handed attempts to use US pressure to bully the ministry into granting a license have had an effect oppo-site to the one intended. The best thing that Fukase could do at this point would be to go see Chono and try to pour some oil on troubled waters. But Fukase has not been to Chono's office in months, while Asano reportedly visits him regularly. "They're naive guys," comments one observer of IIJ. "They don't know how to play the game in their own country." Murai would like to wash his hands of the conflict and get on with his research. "I don't want to deal with any of this," he groans, adding in frustration, "What's wrong with me? I'm providing a better environment [than NACSIS], producing researchers and good results, and the com-panies [that support WIDE] are very happy. The problem is," he concludes, "I'm too young to deal with this kind of thing." But much as he might like to, Murai cannot simply walk away from the mess that surrounds IIJ. Indeed, as Farber points out, much of the current problem stems from confusion over Murai's dual role as director of an academic research network and would-be godfather of a commercial Internet pro-vider. Carl Malamud, a friend of Murai and author of the technical travelog, Exploring the Internet, comments that "the real issue in Japan is the same as in the US. We're moving beyond the myth that the Internet is some academic research project." What then is to be done to sort things out? Nobody in Japan seems to know. One less-than-optimum solution is simply to let time take its course. Inose is expected to retire in a couple of years. Following his master's departure, Asano says he will probably return to academic life. Well before then, IIJ will likely bring in new management to run its business, leaving Murai to get on with his research. For the moment, however, though a new era has begun, precious time is being lost. And it is time that Japan can ill afford to lose.

SIDEBAR Reasons for Japan's Late Start

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Dominance of centralized, mainframe-based computing Lack of LANs Proprietary protocols TCP/IP ignored while government and industry pursued OSI Lack of Japanese software and support for routers Over-regulation Difficulty of Japanese text entry Japan a small country dominated by Tokyo Overpriced leased lines What's Needed for Japan's Catch-Up More support, especially financial, from government and industry Better-educated bureaucrats More coordination between existing networks Elimination of barriers imposed by government between academics and industry More free-access systems More applications software Faster links Lower tariffs More researchers More links with other Asian countries Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

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3.04: Heads Up, Mickey

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Heads Up, Mickey Anime may be Japan's first really big cultural export. By Andrew Leonard

In the universe of Japanese science fiction cartoons, Tokyo is so often pulverized by nuclear explosions - and then rebuilt - the name "Neo-Tokyo" has become a clichĂŠ in Japanese animation. In Akira, the most internationally famous of the hypercharged sci-fi flicks, Neo-Tokyo is annihilated not once, but twice. Japan's animated futuristic fantasies carry on a mad love affair with the threats - and possibilities - of technology. They deliver a world in which giant pharaoh-headed robots are run-of-the-mill and every other teenager seems to be able to transform at a moment's notice into a deranged cyborg daemon from another dimension. This is a world populated by humans who crawl and slither like dextrous ants among insanely complex rocket ships and space stations. And that's not all. These lurid visions comprise only one subcategory of the overall genre known in Japan as anime. In Japanese animation, anything goes: a quick glance at the range of anime programs reveals a 50-part animated serialization of the novel Anne of Green Gables, a weekly TV series that depicts the struggles of a fictional soccer team making its way through the playoffs, and soap operas about high school. Fanciful, sensually textured, and hugely popular, anime is more than just an excessively indulged passion for cartoons. It is also Big Business, at least in Japan. Each month, about 100 new anime productions appear on television, video, and film in Japan. While video and theatrical sales of anime products total 15 to 25 billion annually (US$150 to $250 million), that's just a fraction of the hundreds of billions of yen in profits generated by a relentless strategy of cross-merchandising toys, comic books, model kits, and, increasingly, videogames. In 1994, one animated title alone, Lovely Soldier Sailor Moon, a TV series targeting young girls, grossed more than a hundred billion yen in merchandise sales. Now Japanese animators are hoping to export this cultural and economic phenom to the West. For a US entertainment industry desperate to stuff its insatiable content maw, the dream of duplicating the synergistic potential of Japan's cross-merchandised bonanza is tantalizing. Everyone is looking for the next Mighty Morphin Power Rangers toy or Mortal Kombat videogame. "Japanese animation is probably the most exportable part of Japanese culture," notes John O'Donnell, managing director of Central Park Media, a New York-based animation importer and publisher. But despite the increasing popularity of Japanese animation in the United States, anime arrivals on American shores aren't exactly greeted with much fanfare. One particular film, The Wings of Honneamise - regarded by anime connoisseurs as a treasured classic - barely mustered a blip on the pop-culture viewing screen when it was released in the United States in November 1994, seven years after its dĂŠbut in Japan. But this stealth arrival is just the beginning, not the end of the story. For now, the American market for anime may be just a fraction of the US$15-billion-a-year home-video business. Bruce Apar, editor of Video Business magazine, estimates that anime is a US$75 million annual business at most in http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.04/anime_pr.html

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the US - a microniche. But Apar is quick to note that this market amounted to nil as recently as five years ago. The arrival of big companies like Polygram Video and Orion Home Video is a sure sign of future growth, Apar added. Just in the last year, anime programs have appeared on the Cartoon Network, TNT, TBS, Nickelodeon, and the Science Fiction Channel. If anime keeps booming, one of its giant robots may just gobble up Mickey Mouse. Garage kits Considered one of the top 10 films of 1987 by Japanese film critics, The Wings of Honneamise is a bittersweet, introspective tale of an incompetent space program staffed by slacker astronauts who are despised by society at large. It was made by an iconoclastic band of talented twentysomethings who called themselves Gainax. The name is a self-mocking contraction of a Japanese word for great with the English word max. The core members of Gainax had been teenage buddies from well-to-do families who joined up in Osaka, Japan's second largest city. By 1987, they were fanatic animators who slept until noon and never took out the trash, leather-jacketed motorcycle punks who listened to industrial bands like German deconstructionists Einst端rzende Neubauten. They had the wherewithal to indulge their obsessions with comic books and animation, publishing their creations in popular fanzines. They saw themselves as creating a lone-wolf company in a country of same-same. Founding members of the group included Hideaki Anno, an animator, Toshio Okada, Gainax's master planner, and Hiroyuki Yamaga, the 26-year-old kid who directed The Wings Of Honneamise. Gainax provides a perfect example of the interconnections between anime as art form and as merchandising vehicle. Before they ever started creating their own anime, the Gainax boys labored long hours manufacturing what are known in Japan as garage kits. In Japan, the English word "garage" is used to differentiate homemade toy kits from the mass-produced injection-molded model kits that are one of the biggest moneymakers for the animation business. Created by a cheap "cold-casting" process using polyurethane resin plastic, the kits usually were based on popular animated characters. Gainax-built kits, however, clearly reflected their manufacturer's quirky sense of humor, and, once assembled, could turn out to be anything from life-size replicas of nearly extinct sea creatures to fantastic imaginary beasts. At first, says Shon Howell, a former Gainax employee, Gainax found it easy to obtain licenses to make garage kits based on established characters. At its height in the late'80s, Gainax had 80 employees. But as the company grew more successful, the licenses became more expensive. Eventually,in addition to the cross-merchandising it already had underway, Gainax began making products based on its own characters. The con circuit In 1984, Gainax began organizing full-scale science fiction conventions that quickly earned a reputation among fans for offbeat events. For instance, at the 1985 DaiCon, an annual science fiction convention held in Osaka, Gainax members called upon their connections in local society to convince the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra to attend the convention and play a medley of television animation theme tunes. Gainax later used these conventions to showcase self-produced animated short films. One of these shorts attracted the attention of Bandai Company Ltd., a major corporate sponsor of Japaneseanimated programming. So in 1986, the members of Gainax convinced the Bandai board of directors to give them about 700 million (US$5 million, at 1986 exchange rates) to produce The Wings of Honneamise. It was, as one Gainax associate put it, "one of the greatest achievements of ballsy fandom in possibly the entire universe." Fansubbing Until recently, only a subculture of hard-core American fans devoured anime outside of Japan. Often called otaku (Japanese slang for "obsessed fans"), their numbers are estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 in North America. They are usually young, often Asian-American, and almost always male, although that is changing. If one is to judge by their prolific posting in Usenet newsgroups like rec.arts.anime, a sizable proportion are also computer geeks. As recently as 1991, otaku hungry for an anime fix had limited options. Unless you belonged to an anime viewing club, or regularly attended science fiction and gaming conventions that featured anime showcases, you were stuck, doomed to watch muddy, scratched-up, hundredth-generation copies of bootlegged cassette tapes. Even if the cassette was in good condition, a tape of a program pirated directly off Japanese television and mailed to the http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.04/anime_pr.html

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United States had limited appeal to non-Japanese speakers. True otaku soon took matters into their own hands. If no one was going to subtitle or dub Japanese animations into English, the otaku would do it themselves, calling it fansubbing. According to one American otaku, Carl Horn, it was possible to set up a fansubbing operation for a relatively low cost. All you needed was an Amiga 500 computer (the otaku machine of choice), some subtitling software (easily obtainable from any of several computer bulletin boards or an anime archive stashed somewhere on the Internet), and a device called a GenLock for matching the video signal with the computer output. No one has a good explanation why otaku and anime subculture thrived on the Internet years before it exploded into mainstream popular consciousness. But there's no question that anime otaku have one of the more computer networked subcultures around. Anime fans expend countless hours online crafting Web home pages festooned with animated art, uploading painstakingly compiled translated scripts of anime programs, and engaging in endless flame wars on every aspect of anime trivia. Such obsessive behavior is a fundamental part of what it means to be an otaku. It's also part of the reason American anime distribution companies are scrambling to diversify their product line, offering comic books, trading cards, games, and even Japanese-style handcrafted model kits. Otaku are the most likely segment of the general population to buy the laser disc collectors' edition of their favorite animated program, along with the CD soundtrack, the complete line of toys, and the role-playing-computer game spinoff. Japan's Spinal Tap Anime's big US break took place in 1991 in San Jose, California, at AnimeCon, the first major North American convention solely devoted to anime and manga (the ubiquitous Japanese comic books). With the help of Toren Smith, a comic book writer and adapter of Japanese comics for American readers, the leaders of Gainax organized and financed the convention, hoping to establish a foothold in the American collectibles market. The members of Gainax were special heroes to American otaku: these eccentric geniuses were former otaku themselves. In fact, along with organizing AnimeCon, in 1991, Gainax released an animated "mockumentary" satirizing its own history, entitled Otaku No Video, that gave fans a chance to see how Gainax had started out. Dubbed "the Spinal Tap of Japanese animation" by American fans, Otaku No Video is a tale of a group of megalomaniac otaku whose early activities follow those of the real Gainax - step by step. Interspersed into the story's narrative are a series of interviews with real, live otaku, whose voices and faces have been digitally altered to protect their identities. The interview subjects come across as malformed individuals, pasty-faced refugees from normal life. Toren Smith, who shared a house in Japan in 1988 with several Gainax employees, said the characterization isn't far from the truth. "Their entire life was animation," said Smith. "They never got up until noon, but then they busted their butts all day. They were incredibly hard-working, an extreme example of the creative clique, a group of maniacs working almost completely isolated from the world." The reign of the robot toys The mid-'80s, when Gainax's fortunes rose, amounted to the golden age of Japanese animation. Anime marketers had learned to skip the stages of theatrical release or television broadcast and aim directly at home-video consumers. Anime creators benefited, especially those who had been working within the tight production schedules imposed by television. Not only did a longer production cycle lead to improved production values, but bypassing television restrictions on content allowed animators to indulge themselves in creating scenes filled with graphic violence or explicit sexual content. Even more important, however, was the booming Japanese economy. In an era when Japanese consumers were spending money like never before, corporations such as Bandai sponsored animated programs as a way of promoting their product lines. For decades, Bandai has been a giant corporate monster towering over the midget industry; it has specialized in sponsoring robot-oriented animation linked to Bandai toys. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.04/anime_pr.html

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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, says Trish Ledoux, the editor of Animerica & Manga Monthly, the preeminent anime journal in the United States, Bandai bankrolled so many robot television shows and films that it singlehandedly ushered in "the reign of the robot toys." Today, Bandai America Inc. rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars annually as the licensee to manufacture Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Power Rangers aren't based on animated characters (though it takes a close look at the gaudy-suited teenagers running around in this TV program to be sure), but the cross-merchandising principle hasn't changed in 20 years. The bubble pops In 1991, the golden age of animation came to an end. Japan's seemingly unstoppable "bubble economy" finally popped. A bruising three-year recession set in. Sales of toys and other anime-related collectibles declined. Corporate advertising support plummeted. Production studios moved offshore. For animators, the choice was stark - starve or find another job. Even the mighty Gainax has not produced an original work of animation under its own name since 1991. Ultimately, argues Ken Iyadomi, a vice president at Manga Entertainment, the American half of the co-production deal that brought The Wings of Honneamise to the United States, Japanese production studios that want to produce quality animation have been forced to look abroad for new sources of financing, thus setting off the rash of co-production deals now prevalent in the industry. "Productions like Wings and Akira are no longer possible," said Iyadomi, a former Bandai producer, "if we target only within Japan. Everybody is seeking business opportunities outside of Japan with productions created using Japanese creative personnel." Like everyone else, Gainax was forced to restructure. But Gainax's attempt to market merchandise in the United States collapsed in disarray, a victim of its own excessive ambition, says Shon Howell, who ran Gainax's US office in 1990 and 1991. Like many other start-up companies trying to maximize a fast-breaking opportunity, Gainax grew too fast. It shed its sideline publishing and merchandising businesses and pulled back from producing original animation. Toshio Okada, formerly Gainax's chief, now lectures on multimedia at Tokyo University. Hiroyuki Yamaga, the director of The Wings of Honneamise, is now Gainax's managing director in charge of multimedia business. Today, computer games are Gainax's staple business, as well as the cause of its most recent notoriety. In January 1994, a strip-tease quiz game created by Gainax (a young woman takes off her clothes in response to correctly answered questions) gave the company a dubious honor: it was this case that set the legal precedent in Japan allowing a prohibition on sales of "sexually explicit" computer games to minors. Gainax claims it hasn't abandoned the production of original animation. The company recently bought a state-ofthe-art Silicon Graphics workstation for future creative activities. And star animator Hideaki Anno is now producing a new giant robot TV series. But the emphasis on multimedia shows that the Gainax brain trust has recognized that the return on investment for a successful multimedia software application - such as a computer game - dwarfs what is possible from an animated program. And Gainax isn't the only group of animators expanding beyond animation. Katsuhiro Otomo, the director of Akira, has recently sold the license to a videogame version of Akira to the LA-based company T*HQ Inc. The implications are obvious. In the United States, the dearth of talented multimedia creators is a sore spot for the videogame industry. The huge pool of Japanese animators could be an excellent antidote. If industry observers like Carl Macek and Ken Iyadomi are correct, the international expansion of the market for Japanese animation could open opportunities for studios such as Gainax. But Gainax, which prides itself on displaying the movie know-how that game products need, may instead take advantage of an equal demand for multimedia talent. Already, an English version of one of Gainax's most popular role-playing-games, Princess Maker, is due for release in the United States. New realities Not everyone is excited about Hollywood's discovery of anime. The otaku - long the mainstays of the American http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.04/anime_pr.html

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market for anime - are particularly worried. They're suspicious of a distribution deal between Hollywood's Orion Home Video and Carl Macek's Streamline Video to release - among other titles - a Japanese animated version of Orion's star property, Robocop, complete with the whole range of cross-merchandised games, toys, and collectibles. Many American otaku are purists who draw the line at any kind of alteration of the original product that goes beyond subtitling. English dubs are blasphemy. The Hollywoodization of anime is seen as cultural imperialism at its most insidious. But animation as art form in both the United States and Japan has always been a product of cross-fertilization. The "Walt Disney" of Japanese animation, Osamu Tezuka, credits the real Walt Disney as his muse. Frederik Schodt, author of the seminal English language guide to Japanese comic books, Manga! Manga!, points to the big blue eyes characteristic of so many Japanese animated figures as evidence of Disney's effect on Tezuka's work. Such influences continue to travel in both directions. Animator Koichi Ohata, the creator of a dark and disturbing animated series called Genocyber, recalled being inspired by the early 1980s American animated film Heavy Metal. Japanese animators also claim that large sections of Disney's The Lion King were lifted straight from a film created by Tezuka. And Toren Smith, an American comic book writer who adapts Japanese comic books for the US market, says the traditional Japanese attention to detail, with its deeply textured individual frames, informs everything from MTV videos to Disney's recent animated television series, Gargoyles. Gainax itself laced its work with references to American science fiction. Before making The Wings of Honneamise, the members of Gainax visited the US, toured NASA installations, and gawked at the scenery of New York City as part of their research. The reception of anime in the West is still uncertain. Will it remain a cult of otaku, an obsession of online geeks, or will it be the next Sega? The key members of Gainax are now hardly into their 30s. In their own pseudo-history, Otaku No Video, they take over every aspect of the animation business, pushing cross-merchandising to such a degree that they even establish their own animation-business theme park, OtakuLand. Their message: They aren't finished yet. To take your own trip to animeland, ftp to venice.tcp.com and remus.rutgers.edu. The best starting point for Web surfing is at http://server.berkeley.edu/CAA. Andrew Leonard (aleonard@well.sf.ca.us) is a freelance writer based in Berkeley, California. He specializes in cyber-Asia.

Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Perceptive Pixel’s Multi-Touch Wall Now Available for $100K | Gadget Lab from Wired.com

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Top Stories

« Wired Halo 3 Supergeek Giveaway | Main | Adobe Shows off 3D Lens: Never Trust Photos Again »

Perceptive Pixel’s Multi-Touch Wall Now Available for $100K By Jose Fermoso

October 08, 2007 | 9:00:00 PM

Categories: Displays, High Def, Home Entertainment

The Interactive Touch Media Wall that started as a research project at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences by researcher Jeff Han, is now available for purchase for a sweet $100,000. Featured in Neiman Marcus’ 2007 Christmas Book Catalog For The Really Rich, (actually just called The Christmas Book), the media wall allows a user to interact with several netbased programs on a multi-touch-sensitive, high-resolution screen. The user can manipulate multimedia with more than one finger at a time, such as the cropping of pictures, zooming through Google Maps, and other apps reminiscent of the film Minority Report. It’s also supposed to be smudge resistant, easy to use, and very durable (as would be expected of surfaces receiving constant use from accident-prone humans). Check out Wired’s interview with Jeff Han from earlier in the year right here, and if you want to buy the touch wall, go right here or to Han’s Perceptive Pixel website. Mr. Han and his tech innovation received enormous buzz beginning at the 2006 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, forcing his research from the confines of his NYU lab to the dark (but welcoming) embrace of the high-tech product market.

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EDITOR: Dylan Tweney | email ASSISTANT EDITOR: Daniel Dumas CONTRIBUTOR: Charlie Sorrel | email CONTRIBUTOR: Brian X. Chen | email | IM CONTRIBUTOR: Priya Ganapati | email CONTRIBUTOR: Jose Fermoso CONTRIBUTOR: Mark McClusky

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Posted by: Alex | Oct 9, 2007 6:35:55 AM

New Universal Remote: All Your Device Belong To Us Never mind the wall, what about a tabletop? I want this in a drafting-table form factor for my home. Or how about a tablet? If Apple can do it on the iPhone, there's no reason we can't get this in a size midway between.

UK Perfects, Expands '100% Waterproof' Technology Thank God: Guitar Praise Offers Guitar Hero for Christians

Posted by: brianeisley | Oct 9, 2007 8:40:50 AM

Hack: Control Roomba Vacuum Cleaner Using Wii Fit It's far too expensive, especially after Jeff bragged about how incredibly cheap it is to make these. $10k tops, more like $5000, with most of the money spent on the LCD.

Massive iPhone Security Flaw Exposes Your Private Data - Here's the Fix

Posted by: madmerv | Jan 28, 2008 1:15:59 PM

Iogear Announces Wireless Kit for Monitors and Projectors

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Review: Palm Treo Pro Fronts Handsome Styling, Half Baked Touchscreen Review: Bite Sized Samsung LCD Slashes Noise Without Mercy Review: HP's TouchSmart PC Gets Us All Touchy Feely

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Wired 9.09: Ichiban

8/27/08 1:09 PM

Ichiban 10 reasons why the sun still rises in the East. 1. INDUSTRIAL DESIGN "In Japanese design, every little part, every little line, every little button is well thought-out. It's as if each element is saying, 'I am a part of this machine and I have to do my job, too, no matter how small.' Next year's model may not seem new, but it's improved. And it's not just consumer electronics. Look at a company like Honda. They'll make a convertible sports coupe that could eat a Porsche Boxster alive on the racetrack, but it will look like a slightly pointy Civic. As a culture they're not necessarily choosing to innovate: They choose to perfect." - Gray Holland is part of the brain trust at frog design, the firm responsible for everything from Apple's early look and feel to the new Ford Th!nk, an all-electric concept vehicle. Seiko's Wrist Commander watch/cell phone/PDA is just a prototype now, but the production model is due next year and should cost about $200. Muji, a Japanese department store with a minimalist, high-design aesthetic, is on an expansion binge: In just the past two years, 15 stores have opened in France and the UK.

2. ARCHITECTURE "The Japanese have inflected the language of modernism with a new power, a new elegance, a new edge, that is extraordinarily impressive. They manage to build spaces that not only engage in the rich, dense, pulsating urban fabrics of the cities around them but that are also, once you get inside, extraordinarily contemplative and serene. I'm very impressed by them, and not just by the big names - Tadao Ando, for example. Less well-known architects are also doing phenomenal work: Yoshio Taniguchi, obviously, but there's Toyo Ito, Arata Isozaki, Shigeru Ban, and certainly others." - Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, chose Taniguchi to design MoMA's new wing after a yearlong, worldwide search. Japan was an important influence on Frank Lloyd Wright's work and the site of one of his most significant commissions: Tokyo's Imperial Hotel (demolished in 1922). Katsu Umebayashi's single-family house uses a cloth roof to maximize both ambient light and available floor space of a typically tiny 787-square-foot Tokyo lot. The newest architectural statement to hit Japan is Tokyo Disney Seas. Wholly owned and operated by a Japanese licensee, the $2.8 billion, 176-acre amusement park opens for business in September.

3. BRANDING "Hello Kitty is an icon that doesn't stand for anything at all. Hello Kitty never has been, and never will be, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/topten_pr.html

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anything. She's pure license; you can even get a Hello Kitty car! The branding thing is completely out of control, but it started as nothing and maintains its nothingness. It's not about the ego, and in that way it's very Japanese." - Tom Sachs, the artist whose Hello Kitty Nativity Scene created a scandal when it debuted in the Christmas windows at Barney's New York in 1994. This month, Yu-Gi-Oh!, another Japanese import, will premiere on the WB Television Network. The series, set in a high school populated with malicious monsters, is designed to appeal to older children. Videogame and card game spin-offs, already wildly popular in Japan, will be here in time for Christmas. PokĂŠmon is broadcast in 65 countries, translated into more than 30 languages. Since its debut in 1996, the show has sold $15 billion in merchandise worldwide. You can get a Hello Kitty vibrator and douche, but not a letter opener. Sanrio, the company that owns the license, draws the line at sharp objects.

4. MUSIC "DJs and hip hop producers have this fascination with Japanese audio equipment from the late '70s and early '80s. The Technics 1200 is considered the best DJ turntable, and the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer is famous for making bass lines. It's actually a drum machine, but if you detune the kick drum you get this massively visceral and distorted-sounding low-frequency bass sound - it's often described as a 'hum' or 'leakage.' That sonic boom you hear when cars with mega sound systems go by? That's the 808. It's a perfect example of creative misuse, and one of the classic sounds in electronic dance music and hip hop." - Simon Reynolds, rave historian; his favorite Japanese musician is Ryuichi Sakamoto. Further blurring the line between equipment and instrument is the trend toward musical videogames. Next month Sony will release Frequency, a "rhythm game" for the PS2: Hit targets in time to make a song. Though over the past 20 years the number of turntables sold per year has fallen tenfold, the average price per unit has nearly doubled. The trend highlights a cultural shift: More and more, the phonograph is seen as a musical instrument in its own right and not just as a record player. The decks that DJs, scratchers, and turntablists use either Technics or Vestax - are Japanese.

5. ROBOTICS "The favorite Hollywood story is that robots will take over the world, or take over in some way. That's what HAL did in 2001, it's what the Terminator did, too, and in the United States it's very common to talk about the use of robots in military operations. The Japanese, however, see robots as friends, laborers, even as caretakers in assisted-living situations. The difference is partially a function of differing attitudes toward immigrant labor. Europe imports cheap labor from Turkey and northern Africa. The US imports cheap labor from Mexico. But Japan doesn't have that option at all. It's a closed society with an aging population." - Rodney Brooks is the Fujitsu professor of computer science and engineering and director of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. More than half of the world's 750,000 industrial robots can be found in Japanese factories. A prototype robo-nurse can measure a patient's body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.

6. COMICS "Manga developed after World War II at the hands of one designer, Osamu Tezuka. He was influenced a great deal by the work of Carl Barks - the creator of Scrooge McDuck. Basically, Tezuka made an American art form http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/topten_pr.html

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Wired 9.09: Ichiban

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Japanese by mixing Disney with sophisticated stories. In the US, McCarthyism lobotomized comics, reducing them to this one genre of costumed superheroes. But in Japan, comics grew into a literary art form: You have romance comics, historical comics, golf comics, sports comics ... they're made for every market and for every taste. Now Disney is taking cues from the Japanese. The Little Mermaid is heavily influenced by the manga style, and The Lion King is basically Tezuka's Kimba the White Lion." - As editor in chief of CPM Manga, Christopher Couch brings English-language versions of Japanese manga comics to American audiences. Manga accounts for more than 40 percent of all books and magazines sold in Japan, an average of 15 titles per person each year. Manga often takes on a profitable second life as anime: The animated film Princess Mononoke is Japan's secondtop-grossing movie of all time (Titanic is number one). 7. VIDEOGAMES "The Japanese in videogames are as influential as the Americans are in film. They produce the best games in the world. The Japanese have huge development teams and large budgets, and they enter into a project the way Cecil B. DeMille used to approach a blockbuster film. They don't just make nice videogames. They make epic videogames. If we have a staff of 50 working on a game, they'll have over 200 people, and it works. They've brought in camera work, direction, story line - all the things that have been used in film for years. And now games are starting to influence movies: Look at The Matrix or even Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." - British game designer Peter Molyneux created Black & White, a game that's been described as "Tamagotchi for grown-ups." Nintendo has made 115 million Game Boys - enough to arm every Japanese man, woman, and child with one of their very own. If buzz is any indication, this Christmas the must-have console game will be Konami's Metal Gear Solid 2 (above). The cinematic shooter swept the game design awards at this year's industry expo. Japan's $8.1 billion console game industry represents almost half of the world market.

8. DEMAND CREATION "The Japanese product cycle is a hyper version of America's. They buy, sell, and produce much more quickly over there - it's a supercycle. Hiroshi, the fashion designer behind the Good Enough label, has a store in Osaka that's only open Wednesday through Saturday. Every Wednesday he puts new product on the shelves - usually a new Tshirt, but it could be anything, he even designs shoes for Nike - and inevitably sells out by the end of the day. The line forms two hours before the doors open because supply is strictly limited." - Shepard Fairey, creator of Obey/Giant's street-wear line, is opening a boutique in Harajuku in September. American notebook manufacturers won't release a new model without assurances that they'll sell at least 250,000 units worldwide, but Japanese OEMs are far more experimental. For Sony, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Toshiba, Sharp, Casio, and NEC, 25,000 is a niche big enough to support a new form factor. Japan's registration rules make it prohibitively expensive to own an automobile for much more than five years, effectively guaranteeing demand for the newest models. Used cars are exported to Southeast Asia and Europe en masse. Santa Claus, caroling, and strings of lights are common in big-city department stores. Christmas commercialism is just part of the buildup toward the traditional gift-giving holiday: New Year's Day.

9. EROTICA

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Wired 9.09: Ichiban

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"The Japanese have a long connection with rope, going back perhaps as far as 3,000 years. Prehistoric Japanese pottery was often designed with rope. In many of the Shinto shrines, you'll see huge ropes that mark the sacred ground. Decorative tying was used to symbolize good things; for example, the gift of money at a wedding would be wrapped in an intricate cord pattern. A kimono is tied onto the body: There isn't a single hook, snap, or button. Tying is an intimate part of the culture. Medieval samurai even had a martial art, hojo jitsu, dedicated to the art of tying up their captured enemy. At the turn of the 20th century, one gentleman, Seiu Ito, started photographing women in elaborate rope bondage and single-handedly popularized a style known as shibari." - Midori, author of The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage (forthcoming from Greenery Press), was born in Kyoto. Japanese rope bondage is spreading to the West: There are now American-based shibari Web sites and a West Coast shibari scene. The Japanese adult entertainment industry produces 5,000 X-rated films a year. A censorship committee must screen each one for approval.

10. GAME SHOWS "Game shows go through phases. Back in the early 1990s, humiliation was big in Japan. Trans-America Ultra Quiz, for example, required any contestant who lost to play 'the loser's game' - which basically meant doing some embarrassing or difficult stunt. One man was painted red and had to stand on a street corner yelling, 'I am a loser!' Now humiliation has come to the US with shows like Survivor and The Weakest Link. I'd say that it's become more popular here now than it ever was in Japan." - Anne Cooper-Chen wrote Games in the Global Village (Popular Press). She's spent the past year studying Asian TV. A recurring segment on Tokyo Friend Park 2 has contestants donning fuzzy suits and tossing themselves onto a Velcro wall. Whoever jumps the highest wins. The Food Network is developing an American version of Iron Chef, a celebrity cook-off with a cult following in the US.

Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/topten_pr.html

Page 4 of 4


Wired 9.09: Is Japan Still The Future?

8/27/08 1:08 PM

Is Japan Still The Future? That depends on which Japan you mean. Let us hope it's not the prosaic one that lives in a decade's grim headlines. Since the bust of the early 1990s, Japan's financial levers have stopped working. Politicians have been rendered impotent by scandal and voter disillusionment, major banks humbled by the markets. Even in the splatter of America's own burst bubble, Japan's bottomless reservoir of bad news seems too dark a model for all but the most dyspeptic futurist. But there is another Japan: Japan-as-metaphor. This is the Japan that represents hypermodernism in all its dimensions, from advanced technology to individual alienation to urbanization run amok. This stylized notion took root in the '80s amid the country's economic boom. It was a time when Japanese business models, money, and products seemed like irresistible forces. Neuromancer launched cyberpunk onto the streets of a future Japan "where you couldn't see the lights of Tokyo for the glare of the television sky, not even the towering hologram logo of the Fuji Electric Company." William Gibson's imagined Japan was not the shiny future-perfect of yesterday's world fairs, but instead a hard-edged tomorrow where giant conglomerates ruled and silico-, nano-, and bio- were the main denominations of value. Gibson's message was that disruptive technology would bring with it disruptive social change. And it read like prophecy. In hindsight, we know that although the cyberpunk vision anticipated many of the social pathologies that would emerge as Japan's economy collapsed, it did not anticipate what has surfaced as a greater threat to Japan's place in the future: irrelevance. The past 10 years have seen a depressing parade of disposable prime ministers, metastasizing concrete, and bankruptcy. And the last time we checked, there were no holograms over Tokyo. Yet it would be wrong to count Japan out just because the future is not what it used to be. We persuaded William Gibson to go back to Tokyo to have another look. He found, to his own surprise, that his sense of Japan hurtling ever forward has subsided, only to be replaced with a new sense of permanent, yet welltolerated, chaos. This, Gibson suggests, is the future for all of us. And furthermore, so what? Despite the fact that the country's political and economic institutions lie in shambles, Japanese innovation and creativity continues unabated. Two years ago, the notion that America's future, then a glowing path of endless prosperity, had anything in common with Japan's was risible. Today, post-Nasdaq, it is less so. Alan Greenspan is starting to feel the pain of his neutered Japanese counterparts. A controversial election cast a cloud over America's political process, and an evaporating surplus is limiting government's clout. Meanwhile, almost $5 trillion of national wealth simply disappeared. Our cyberpunk future has been put on an indefinite hold. But perhaps today's Japan - the Japan beyond the dreary headlines - can reveal more about the shape of things to come than that shimmering vision ever did.

INSIDE: William Gibson revisits the land of his imagination 10 Reasons why the sun still rises in the East DoCoMo unwires the world's first post-PC nation Square takes aim at Pixar http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/japan_pr.html

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Wired 9.09: Is Japan Still The Future?

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- Chris Anderson Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/japan_pr.html

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Wired 9.09: My Own Private Tokyo

8/27/08 1:08 PM

My Own Private Tokyo By William Gibson

I wish I had a thousand-yen note for every journalist who, over the past decade, has asked me whether Japan is still as futurologically sexy as it seemed to be in the '80s. If I did, I'd take one of these spotlessly lace-upholstered taxis over to the Ginza and buy my wife a small box of the most expensive Belgian chocolates in the universe. I'm back to Tokyo tonight to refresh my sense of place, check out the post-Bubble city, professionally resharpen that handy Japanese edge. If you believe, as I do, that all cultural change is essentially technology-driven, you pay attention to Japan. There are reasons for that, and they run deep. Dining late, in a plastic-draped gypsy noodle stall in Shinjuku, the classic clichĂŠ better-than-Blade Runner Tokyo street set, I scope my neighbor's phone as he checks his text messages. Wafer-thin, Kandy Kolor pearlescent white, complexly curvilinear, totally ephemeral looking, its screen seethes with a miniature version of Shinjuku's neon light show. He's got the rosary-like anticancer charm attached; most people here do, believing it deflects microwaves, grounding them away from the brain. It looks great, in terms of a novelist's need for props, but it may not actually be that next-generation in terms of what I'm used to back home. Tokyo has been my handiest prop shop for as long as I've been writing: sheer eye candy. You can see more chronological strata of futuristic design in a Tokyo streetscape than anywhere else in the world. Like successive layers of Tomorrowlands, older ones showing through when the newer ones start to peel. The world's second-richest economy, after a decade of stagflation, still looks like the world's richest place, but the global lea lines of money and hustle have invisibly realigned. It feels to me as though all that crazy momentum has finally arrived. So the pearlescent phone with the cancer thingy gets drafted straight into props, but what about Japan itself? The Bubble's gone, successive economic plans sputter and wobble to the same halt, one political scandal follows another ... Is that the future? Yes. Part of it, and not necessarily ours, but definitely yes. The Japanese love "futuristic" things precisely because they've been living in the future for such a very long time now. History, that other form of speculative fiction, explains why. The Japanese, you see, have been repeatedly drop-kicked, ever further down the timeline, by serial national traumata of quite unthinkable weirdness, by 150 years of deep, almost constant, change. The 20th century, for Japan, was like a ride on a rocket sled, with successive bundles of fuel igniting spontaneously, one after another. They have had one strange ride, the Japanese, and we tend to forget that.

In 1854, with Commodore Perry's second landing, gunboat diplomacy ended 200 years of self-imposed isolation, a deliberate stretching out of the feudal dreamtime. The Japanese knew that America, not to be denied, had come knocking with the future in its hip pocket. This was the quintessential cargo-cult moment for Japan: the arrival of

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Wired 9.09: My Own Private Tokyo

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alien tech. The people who ran Japan - the emperor, the lords and ladies of his court, the nobles, and the very wealthy - were entranced. It must have seemed as though these visitors emerged from some rip in the fabric of reality. Imagine the Roswell Incident as a trade mission, a successful one; imagine us buying all the Gray technology we could afford, no reverse engineering required. This was a cargo cult where the cargo actually did what it claimed to do. They must all have gone briefly but thoroughly mad, then pulled it together somehow and plunged on. The Industrial Revolution came whole, in kit form: steamships, railroads, telegraphy, factories, Western medicine, the division of labor - not to mention a mechanized military and the political will to use it. Then those Americans returned to whack Asia's first industrial society with the light of a thousand suns - twice, and very hard - and thus the War ended. At which point the aliens arrived in force, this time with briefcases and plans, bent on a cultural retrofit from the scorched earth up. Certain central aspects of the feudal-industrial core were left intact, while other areas of the nation's political and business culture were heavily grafted with American tissue, resulting in hybrid forms ...

Here in my Akasaka hotel, I can't sleep. I get dressed and walk to Roppongi, through a not-unpleasantly humid night in the shadows of an exhaust-stained multilevel expressway that feels like the oldest thing in town. Roppongi is an interzone, the land of gaijin bars, always up late. I'm waiting at a pedestrian crossing when I see her. She's probably Australian, young and quite serviceably beautiful. She wears very expensive, very sheer black undergarments, and little else, save for some black outer layer - equally sheer, skintight, and microshort - and some gold and diamonds to give potential clients the right idea. She steps past me, into four lanes of traffic, conversing on her phone in urgent Japanese. Traffic halts obediently for this triumphantly jaywalking gaijin in her black suede spikes. I watch her make the opposite curb, the brain-cancer deflector on her slender little phone swaying in counterpoint to her hips. When the light changes, I cross, and watch her high-five a bouncer who looks like Oddjob in a Paul Smith suit, his skinny lip beard razored with micrometer precision. There's a flash of white as their palms meet. Folded paper. Junkie origami. This ghost of the Bubble, this reminder of Tokyo from when it was the lodestar for every hustler on the face of the planet, strolls on and then ducks into a doorway near the Sugar Heel Bondage Bar. I last came here right on the cusp of that era, just before the downturn, when her kind were legion. She's old-school, this girl: fin de siècle Tokyo decadence. A nostalgia piece. The Bubble, I think, walking back to the hotel with a box of sushi from a high-end liquor store and a bottle of Bikkle, that was their next-to-last kick. That transplanted postwar American industrial tissue took awhile, and in the '80s it finally did the trick, but the economic jet fuel couldn't be sustained. The world's second-richest economy, after nearly a decade of stagflation (the century's final kick), still looks like the world's richest place, but energies have shifted, global lea lines of money and hustle have invisibly realigned, yet it feels to me as though all that crazy momentum has finally arrived. Somewhere. Here. Under the expressway Andrei Tarkovsky used for a sci-fi set when he shot Solaris.

Next day, I run into fellow Vancouverite Douglas Coupland in the Shibuya branch of Tokyu Hands, an eight-floor DIY emporium where doing it yourself includes things like serious diamond cutting. He introduces me to Michael Stipe. Coupland is as jet-lagged as I am, but Stipe indicates that he's actually club-lagged, having stayed up till 2 in the morning the night before. And how does he like Tokyo? "It rocks," says Stipe. Later, having headed for Harajuku and Kiddy Land, another eight floors - these devoted to toys that definitely aren't us - I find myself distracted outside Harajuku Station by a bevy of teenage manga nurses, rocker girls kitted out in knee-high black platform boots, black jodhpurs, black Lara Croft tops, and open, carefully starched lab coats, stethoscopes around their necks. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/gibson_pr.html

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The look clearly isn't happening without a stethoscope. They're doing the Harajuku hang - smoking cigarettes, talking on their little phones, and being seen. I circle them for a while, hoping one will have a colostomy bag or a Texas catheter worked into her outfit, but the look, like most looks here or anywhere, is rigidly delineated. They all have the same black lipstick, worn away to pink at the center. I think about the nurses on my way back to the hotel. Something about dreams, about the interface between the private and the consensual. You can do that here, in Tokyo: be a teenage girl on the street in a bondage-nurse outfit. You can dream in public. And the reason you can do it is that this is one of the safest cities in the world, and a special zone, Harajuku, has already been set aside for you. That was true during the Bubble, and remains true today, in the face of drugs and slackers and a notable local increase in globalization. The Japanese, in the course of being booted down the timeline, have learned to keep it together in ways that we're only just starting to imagine. They don't really worry, not the way we do. The manga nurses don't threaten anything; there's a place for them, and for whatever replaces them.

I spend my last night in Shinjuku with Coupland and a friend. It's hard to beat, these nameless neon streets swarming with every known form of electronic advertising, under a misting rain that softens the commercials playing on façade screens of quite surreal width and clarity. The Japanese know this about television: Make it big enough and anything looks cool. Those French Situationists, going on about the Society of the Spectacle, they didn't have a clue. This is it, right here, and I love it. Shinjuku at night is one of the most deliriously beautiful places in the world, and somehow the silliest of all beautiful places - and the combination is sheer delight. And tonight, watching the Japanese do what they do here, amid all this electric kitsch, all this randomly overlapped media, this chaotically stable neon storm of marketing hoopla, I've got my answer: Japan is still the future, and if the vertigo is gone, it really only means that they've made it out the far end of that tunnel of prematurely accelerated change. Here, in the first city to have this firmly and this comfortably arrived in this new century - the most truly contemporary city on earth - the center is holding. In a world of technologically driven exponential change, the Japanese have an acquired edge: They know how to live with it. Nobody legislates that kind of change into being, it just comes, and keeps coming, and the Japanese have been experiencing it for more than a hundred years. I see them poised here tonight, hanging out, life going on, in the glow of these very big televisions. Postgraduates at all of this. Home at last, in the 21st century.

William Gibson wrote about digital cinema in Wired 7.10. His seventh novel, Pattern Recognition, will be published by Putnam next spring.

Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/gibson_pr.html

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Wired 9.09: Pocket Monster

8/27/08 1:10 PM

Pocket Monster How DoCoMo's wireless Internet service went from fad to phenom - and turned Japan into the first post-PC nation. By Frank Rose

One look at the 27th-floor Sky Lobby at NTT DoCoMo and you know you've reached the antechamber to something big. The elevators, swift and noiseless except for the crisp electronic ping that announces their arrival, deliver a constant stream of supplicants: Japanese executives in their obligatory business suits, Swedes and Finns looking ridiculously tall and blond, American engineering types pulling awkwardly at their ties. The place pulses with expectation and anxiety. Rising overhead for 17 floors are the offices of the corporate colossus behind i-mode, the world's most successful - almost its only successful - wireless Internet service. So far, the wireless Internet has flopped spectacularly in every part of the world except Japan. WAP, the wireless application protocol that was supposed to put cell phone users on the Internet in the US and Europe, is memorable mainly for having inspired the slogan "WAP is crap." Yet i-mode, introduced with minimal expectations in February 1999, has attracted more than 25 million subscribers - one-fifth of Japan's population. New subscribers are still signing on at the rate of 43,000 a day, 1.3 million a month. The Internet is never mentioned in the ads they see; the i in i-mode stands for "information," and the logo - a large, stylized i - plays off the i that marks the information booths in subways and airports. Japan's infatuation with English-language product names even extends to DoCoMo itself: Ads proclaim it an acronym for "Do communications over the mobile network," but dokomo is also a word in Japanese. It means "everywhere." With 39 million cell phone subscribers and revenues last year of $39 billion, DoCoMo is certainly everywhere in Japan - but the rest of the world knows it, and i-mode, only by reputation. That may soon change. Over the past year or so, DoCoMo - two-thirds owned by Nippon Telegraph & Telephone - has invested in mobile carriers around the world, including AT&T Wireless in the US. Now it's working with its partners to adapt i-mode to their markets. It has also taken a controlling stake in AOL Japan, a struggling operation that it's recasting as DoCoMo AOL and using to knit i-mode together with the wireline Internet. Handicapping i-mode's chances outside Japan has become the parlor game of choice among the wireless cognoscenti. Japan has generated plenty of products - from the Sony Walkman to Nintendo's PokĂŠmon - that resonate with the global psyche. On the other hand, it's a safe bet that no one at Coca-Cola spends much time worrying about Pocari Sweat, the pale-green drink that's a staple of Tokyo vending machines. The accepted wisdom about i-mode is that it works in Japan because the Japanese are pushovers for cute little gadgets like cell phones, because their homes are too cramped for American-style desk-hog computers, because few of them know what the Internet is anyway, and because i-mode is a proprietary service that's designed specifically for Japanese users. In other words, i-mode is a fluke; other carriers have nothing to worry about. But few purveyors of the accepted wisdom have ventured past DoCoMo's Sky Lobby to the 33rd floor, where imode is managed by 180 people who sit at desks rowed up Japanese-style on an open floor - no offices or cubicles, not even for i-mode executive director Takeshi Natsuno or for DoCoMo senior vice president Keiichi Enoki. Talk to people here and you begin to realize that i-mode succeeded not because Japan is a mutant market but because its creators made all the right assumptions about how to set up a mobile data service and sell it to the public. Like most consumer success stories, i-mode is geared to the people who use it. Handsets are manufactured by name-brand consumer-electronics outfits like Sony and Panasonic, but DoCoMo subsidizes the phones heavily to keep the price low: A model that might ordinarily cost $600 retails for less than $350. Because DoCoMo's wireless network is packet-switched, users are charged only for the number of data packets they send back and forth, not for the amount of time they're connected, as on most networks outside Japan. Some 46,000 unregulated sites can http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.09/docomo_pr.html

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be reached by typing in a URL, but the 1,800 official i-mode offerings are constantly monitored by DoCoMo to make sure they're fresh and appealing and easy to use. Official i-mode sites are allowed to charge ¥100 to ¥300 a month (US$0.85 to $2.50), which DoCoMo collects for them in exchange for a 9 percent fee. And although these sites are created with a compact version of HTML, the lingua franca of the Web, terms like HTML and even Web never appear in i-mode ads. At the heart of all this is a paradox: i-mode depends on outside providers for everything from handsets to content, yet it's managed so carefully that nothing is left to chance. Critics see a walled garden, more mobile mall than wireless Web. But in fact, i-mode's success comes less from being walled than from being obsessively tended. Users are free to browse the thousands of unofficial sites and bookmark any they choose for instant access. But like the meticulously landscaped entrances to Tokyo office towers, i-mode is monitored by a small army of caretakers who, oblivious to the sprawling chaos around them, root out even the most infinitesimal weed in a campaign to ensure that here, at least, perfection reigns. "It's very carefully cultivated," says Kazutomo Robert Hori, CEO of Cybird, a company that creates i-mode sites. "Very carefully. Very, very carefully." But if i-mode isn't exactly walled, neither is it, properly speaking, a garden. It's much bigger than that. It's a complex ecosystem - a self-sustaining world in which hundreds of companies, from Bandai to Cybird to DoCoMo itself, feed off one another for their mutual benefit. Like water, sunlight, and soil, the elements that make up this world are everywhere. The trick, as anyone who's ever played God can tell you, is getting the mix right.

"Have you tried karaoke on a cell phone? No? It's fabulous!" Takeshi Natsuno gets a charge out of showing what imode can do. Sitting in a windowless conference room labeled PRESS ROOM C, he flips open a sleek little DoCoMo-brand N503i Hyper handset - the model number is the only clue it's made by NEC - and starts punching buttons. Natsuno, a onetime Internet entrepreneur, manages i-mode's domestic operations and global partnerships. His round face and bright-red lips give him a sweet, almost childlike appearance. The impression is amplified by his voice, which swoops higher as his excitement builds - something that happens every 60 seconds or so. "This is 'Imagine' - John Lennon!" he cries. "It's really fun! " Suddenly, the N503i's screen erupts into swirling, multicolored daisy patterns and its tiny speaker emits a deliriously tinny sound. As the lyrics appear in English beneath the daisies, Natsuno gazes lovingly into the screen and bursts into song: "Above us, only sky..." Keitai (portables) combine in one sleek device the functions of three separate gizmos: cell phone, handheld computer, and wireless email receiver. "This is the consumer-electronics mentality. It has to be easy, it has to be fun, and most of all, it can't be boring." Natsuno's passion for i-mode has been great for Japan's karaoke industry, which is recycling its vast store of digital music to sell as ring tones for mobile phones. Other leisure-time businesses have not fared as well. i-mode brought in more than $2.9 billion last year, up from $300 million the year before; DoCoMo's voice revenue rose by $2.6 billion, much of it attributable to the new subscribers drawn by i-mode. All this money had to come from somewhere. When the founder of Daiei, Japan's largest retailer, left the company amid mounting debts and declining sales, he blamed its troubles on cell phones: Young people who used to go shopping now spend their allowances downloading ring tones and sending one another email. In fact, Daiei's problems went well beyond cell phones - but with bills averaging ¥10,000 a month (about US$80), all of Japan is feeling what's come to be known as the DoCoMo effect. What you get with i-mode is the freedom to stay connected anywhere. The basic fee is only ¥300 per month, but for each 128-byte packet of data sent or received, you pay an extra ¥0.3 - a quarter of a penny. Packet switching means you don't have to waste time dialing in every time you want to use the service, and that in turn makes it seem fairly fast, even though DoCoMo's network transmits data at a piddling 9.6 Kbps. Most of what gets sent is email - and because you're connected all the time, you never have to check for it; it just shows up on your handset. The peak hour for traffic is 10 pm, when television's golden time is over and people start emailing one another about their favorite shows. Most of the sites you can access on i-mode are "free," in the sense that you don't have to pay an extra subscription fee. You can get headlines from Bloomberg or Nikkei or the People's Daily. You can take a virtual tour of the Universal Studios theme park in Osaka. You can access city guides to places like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Kobe. Check your bank accounts and transfer funds. Make hotel and flight reservations, sometimes at a big discount. Look for a job, an apartment, a car. Buy and sell stocks. Check the weather. The packet charges add up. Some news and information sites charge a monthly fee, but most of the sites people pay extra for involve more frivolous things - ring tones, screensavers, anything that takes an off-the-shelf plastic shell stuffed with

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microelectronics and makes it your own. This year, with the advent of animation (made possible by a Java licensing deal with Sun), the range of possibilities shot up dramatically. Hello Kitty, the adorable little pussycat that already adorns everything from bank cards to hot dogs, now appears on i-mode screens as well, chiming the hour and doing a little dance. J@pan Inc magazine reports that 9 of the top 10 Java downloads on i-mode are games - everything from mah-jongg to Shit Panic, in which you try to catch the stuff as it falls and flush it down the toilet. But Mickey Mouse is big, too - and for just 짜200 a month you can design a clock using any Disney character you want and make it your screensaver. "When the clock strikes the hour, stars go off," says Mark Handler, who heads international operations for the Walt Disney Internet Group. "It's exciting to watch." Ring tones and cartoon characters have other uses as well. People set their phones to sound a ring-tone version of the latest pop hit whenever their boyfriend or girlfriend calls. They even use i-mode to relieve stress: Gazing at Hello Kitty on their handsets, they'll relax for a moment as they coo, "Oh, I'm healed!" But i-mode is probably best for killing time. With self-employment increasingly common, Starbucks all over Tokyo are packed with young people indulging in hima otsubusu (literally, "crushing free time") between appointments. People who used to nod off on subway cars and commuter trains now stay focused on their handsets, playing games and sending email to their friends. The one thing you rarely see anyone do with a cell phone is talk, since imposing yourself on the people around you is considered rude. That's why Japanese cell phones can be switched to manner mode, which automatically diverts incoming calls to voicemail. The Japanese word for cell phone is keitai, which means "portable," and it's not hard to see why they're a bigger hit than home computers. "I know what the Internet is," says Giles Richter, the American-born publisher of Tokyo's MobileMediaJapan.com Web site, "but I still don't want to carry my computer with me everywhere I go." The first keitai, the so-called candy-bar models, had small black-and-white screens and were about half the size of Western cell phones. Now, with the advent of color and animation, the featherweight candy bars are giving way to slightly heavier, folding handsets with larger, high-resolution screens. They combine in one sleek device the functions of three separate gizmos in America: cell phone, handheld computer, and wireless email receiver. "This is the consumer-electronics mentality," says J@pan Inc editor in chief Steve Mollman. "It has to be easy, it has to be fun, and most of all, it can't be boring." Technology is an expression of the culture that produces it. Japan leads the world in consumer electronics because it's a society that places enormous value on convenience. Growing up in Japan, you get used to being taken care of. Even the subway exits are meticulously labeled, with signs and diagrams pinpointing the location of each nearby building and indicating the best stairway for reaching it. Follow the prescribed path, and everything is made easy for you. At the same time, the Japanese feel an ingrained revulsion for mottainai, or "wastefulness." The United States, with its PC bloatware, supersize-it "value meals," and pedal-to-the-metal energy policy, is big-time mottainai. The Japanese prefer clean, simple, efficient. Put these impulses together and you get the keitai, a cell phone /Internet device/miniature computer that folds up and slips unobtrusively into your pocket. "You've seen it happen with automobiles, you've seen it happen with consumer electronics," says Mollman. "You'll see it now with post-PC devices. It's Japan putting its stamp on the times."

When i-mode was launched in February 1999, fewer than a dozen people bothered to show up for the press conference. Natsuno and his partners, Keiichi Enoki and Mari Matsunaga, had brought in 67 content providers from a cross section of corporate Japan: banks, newspapers, airlines, gaming companies. DoCoMo's expectations were relatively modest. Yet within six months, subscribers passed the 1 million mark. By February 2000, the number had zoomed past 4 million; a year later, nearly 20 million people had signed on. "They lit a match and saw it turn into a bonfire," says Mark Berman, telecom analyst in the Tokyo office of Credit Suisse First Boston. It's impossible to know whether i-mode would have succeeded so dramatically if the Japanese had already been surfing the Web on home computers - but not many Europeans have home Internet access either, and they certainly didn't jump on the WAP wagon. Somehow, i-mode has generated a response that WAP has not. What's more, Japan hasn't just one successful wireless Internet service but three; together they claim 30 percent of the population. DoCoMo has three-fifths of the market. The other 15 million subscribers are almost evenly divided between KDDI's EZweb and the J-Sky service from the wireless unit of Japan Telecom - a company now controlled by Vodafone, the largest and most aggressive wireless carrier in the world. EZweb is a WAP service, but both EZweb and J-Sky were introduced after i-mode, and in most key respects they're a lot closer to it than they are to other wireless services. As the mobile unit of NTT, Japan's former national phone company, DoCoMo has been the country's dominant wireless player from the start. i-mode came about because the company could no longer handle all its traffic. Confined to a limited spectrum, DoCoMo was trying to serve so many subscribers that calls were being dropped

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and text messages couldn't always get through. So in the mid-'90s, it reengineered its cellular network to provide packet switching. Rather than holding a circuit open for the entire time it took to send a text message, the network could now interleave data packets with the voice stream, easing the congestion. That left DoCoMo with a marketing challenge: How could it persuade customers to make fewer voice calls and start using more data services? The problem was handed to Keiichi Enoki, a lifelong engineer at DoCoMo, and before that, NTT. Enoki knew NTT engineers to be as sclerotic as telecom people anywhere, so he refused to have any in his unit. Instead he hired Natsuno, a Wharton MBA who'd returned to Japan in 1995 and started a free ISP called Hypernet. He also brought in Matsunaga, an editor at Recruit, a company that publishes popular women's magazines (and who's since left imode to start a Web business). Working out of a high-rise in the central Tokyo district of Kamiyacho, where office towers share the narrow, twisting back streets with modest houses and luxury hotels, they created a skunk works atmosphere far removed from the stiff, corporate environment of DoCoMo. Blue jeans, not suits, were the rule. So was the mind-set Natsuno describes as "Internet way of thinking," as opposed to "telecom way of thinking." "I can explain the difference," he says, smiling eagerly. "First, technology. We selected Internet technology HTML, MIDI for ring-tone downloads, Java. But telecom people only care about what's best for their infrastructure. So in Europe they invented a new technology" - WAP - "to fit the wireless space, but it was very difficult for Internet people. "Second, business model," he continues. "US approach or European approach is to gain some mileage on content providers by sharing in their ecommerce revenue. But a normal fixed-line operator cannot take any portion of ecommerce. We thought in the same way. By providing a better platform, transactions will increase - that is the biggest benefit to us. So we keep our traffic revenue, and they keep their transaction revenue - and if we can provide value-added services, like a billing system, of course we can share some revenue. "The third thing is marketing," he explains. "In the telecom way of thinking, technology is very important. But AOL - they have never mentioned technology. Amazon.com - they just say, 'We offer the best price.' That is Internet way of thinking. So we never mention 'Internet' or 'protocol' or 'wireless something,' because content is everything." Natsuno loves to rail against "boring telecom guys." If his "Internet way of thinking" were actually typical of the Net, however, dotcoms would be rolling in dough and the Nasdaq would be pushing 10,000. In fact, the scheme he, Enoki, and Matsunaga devised - let's call it "i-mode way of thinking" - was a clever blend of off-the-shelf Web technologies, telecom pricing schemes, and savvy consumer marketing. The 9 percent DoCoMo takes for collecting the bill for i-mode services, for example, is the same percentage NTT takes for billing customers of its Dial Q2 service, which works like 900 numbers in the US. Like its American counterparts, Dial Q2 became synonymous with raunch - a fate DoCoMo has been careful to avoid with i-mode. The marketing focus came from Mari Matsunaga. She knew nothing about Internet technology, but she did know consumers - especially women in their twenties, who were identified early on as a key market for i-mode. Matsunaga made sure the service had features they'd like - shopping sites, horoscopes, ring-tone downloads, easy email capability. She also made sure the maximum price for subscription sites was 짜300 a month - low enough that customers could sign up without thinking about it. The first major ad campaign for i-mode was launched in April 1999, two months after the service debuted, and featured a fresh-faced young movie star - perfect for the target demographic. This also coincided with the start of the Japanese school year, traditionally a time for fresh beginnings - like new cell phones for teenagers. By the end of the month, the number of subscribers was snowballing. Natsuno provided the Internet focus. The crucial choice was to forgo WAP, which was then being developed by an industry consortium led by Ericsson and Nokia. WAP relies on protocols that send data faster and more efficiently over wireless networks than the protocols used on the Web, and it requires a special language that, unlike HTML, is optimized for small screens. Natsuno and Enoki had been considering WAP until they learned that DoCoMo's handset division had just conducted a successful trial of a microbrowser developed by Access, a small Tokyo company that designs software to connect consumer-electronics devices - TV sets, game consoles, cell phones with the Internet. Tomihisa Kamada, the engineering whiz behind the enterprise, had not only found a way to compensate for the limited memory and processing power of cell phones, he'd developed a compact form of HTML to build sites with. Kamada's microbrowser opened i-mode to anyone who can create a Web page. Satoshi Nakajima, a Japanese expat who heads a Seattle startup called UIEvolution, discovered what that means when he set out to construct a little wireless site that converts US measurements to the metric system. Because he knows HTML, he was able to

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create an i-mode site in one evening; a day later he discovered that several hundred people had already visited it. It took him two weeks to develop a WAP version for the American market. "It was a really painful experience," he says, "and at the end of it I got no hits." During the next year, both WAP and the Web will migrate to a new language called XHTML - but until then, WAP will be stuck in the telecom ghetto. For 짜300 a month, you can download games ranging from chess to Samurai Romanesque, a warlord contest playable by 500,000 people at once, updated with real-life weather reports - if it's raining in real life, your virtual gunpowder gets wet. In i-mode, even the content providers have content providers.

i-mode took off because it was advertised as a fun consumer experience and because it delivered on that promise, thanks to technological choices that made it easy for services to proliferate. But what sustains it is the carefully modulated environment Natsuno describes as a "win-win business model." Things are set up so that everyone in the i-mode ecosystem can make money. This has created opportunities not just for big corporations like Nikkei, the 125-year-old business publishing giant, but for any would-be entrepreneur with a cell phone and an idea. "That's kind of a miracle," says Nobuo Kawakami, the 32-year-old cofounder of Dwango, a company that delivers games over i-mode and other networks. A wiry figure with dyed-brown hair in a Beatles cut and a long chain swinging from the belt loop of his faded jeans, Kawakami is the antithesis of the Japanese salaryman. For 짜300 a month, you can go to one of his i-mode sites and download a variety of games to play on your keitai, from chess to Samurai Romanesque, a warlord contest set in 16th-century Japan. Samurai Romanesque can be played by as many as 500,000 people at once. Players enter a world in miniature, traveling from town to town, chatting with other players, waging war, getting married, having children. Dwango updates the game with weather reports from the Japan Weather Association, so when it's raining in real life it's also raining on your handset - which means your gunpowder is damp and you can't fire your musket. In i-mode, even the content providers have content providers. Dwango is hardly the only i-mode success story. Kazutomo Robert Hori of Cybird started out on the Internet in 1995, setting up bulletin boards and chat rooms and enabling people to put up their own homepages. "But there was no billing system," he says, "so we had no revenue - none. We were deeply in debt." Now, in addition to the sites it has created for corporate giants like Disney, Cybird has 23 official i-mode sites of its own - and because DoCoMo collects its subscription fees, Cybird is finally in the black. "For a company like us," says Hori, "the i-mode environment has turned out to be very profitable." There's a trade-off: accepting DoCoMo's supervision. "Our goal is very simple," says Natsuno. "We are providing links to the good-quality content. If you have three minutes to kill, you don't have time to waste just on searching." To make sure you'll like what you find, Natsuno has 20 people who monitor the official sites. They also review 50 to 100 proposals a week from companies eager to gain official status so that DoCoMo will collect their subscription fees. Is the site easy to navigate? Will it be updated often enough? Will it run up so much in packet charges that people will feel burned when they get the bill? Content providers often assume that DoCoMo wants all the traffic it can get, but what the company actually wants is to make sure its users feel good enough about imode to keep coming back. Not surprisingly, this process creates a lot of resentment among site developers, who frequently have to jump through hoops for months to gain official status, if they get it at all. But that's preferable to what their counterparts in Europe and America face. Take Kiwee, a startup in Paris that sells ring tones and screensavers for mobile handsets - or tries to. Two years ago, Kiwee was expecting as many as 20,000 WAP users a day; it's lucky if it gets 10. "WAP is a total joke in Europe," says Francis Cohen, a cofounder. "We have a WAP site, but no one visits it except other developers. It's quite depressing." Kiwee does better selling its products on SMS, the short message service that's built into European wireless networks: Though designed for sending brief text messages from one mobile handset to another, it's also capable of handling music and graphics. The problem is that European wireless carriers want 50 percent of the take. Just as there are official i-mode sites, so there are official i-mode handset manufacturers - "codevelopers," in DoCoMo parlance. Because DoCoMo has such an outsize share of the Japanese wireless market, it has the clout to define the features of the phones it sells. The codevelopers - NEC, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Fujitsu, and now Sony are allowed to work with DoCoMo engineers in setting the specs. The handsets that result are so sleek and advanced that not even Nokia has been able to compete. However, the manufacturers don't get to put their names on the devices; the DoCoMo logo is the only one users ever see. Nor do they get to set the retail price or decide when to introduce new models, since it's DoCoMo that sells them to consumers. Yet they eagerly compete to

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produce phones with the latest features because DoCoMo gives them the inside track in an extremely lucrative race. "It's not a stand-alone product," observes Kanji Ohnishi, product planning chief at Sony's handset division. Ultimately, i-mode isn't a stand-alone product, either. That's the reason for DoCoMo's partnership with AOL, which is based on the idea that i-mode and the Internet should converge. After spending $100 million to become the largest shareholder in AOL Japan, DoCoMo announced that i-mode subscribers could get an AOL email account and access it either on their mobile handsets or personal computers. The next step will be to offer services that can be reached on either device - travel sites, for example, that you can use to get a hotel room or rebook a ticket on the fly. The DoCoMo approach is deliberate, methodical: For example, i-mode has been slow to implement advanced features such as mobile commerce. European carriers have been hyping this possibility for a year or more, and Sonera has actually introduced a crude system in Finland that lets you use a cell phone to buy items from vending machines. But Natsuno becomes agitated at the mere mention of Finland. "That's just a bluff!" he insists. "What they are offering is, you will see a phone number on the vending machine and if you call it up, the can of Coke comes out and it will be charged to your bill. We can do that tomorrow! But what is the advantage of this application? Nothing! You should just push a button! That's all! Right? That's why we announced an alliance with the Coca-Cola Company. You already have IrDA here" - he points to the infrared port at the end of his keitai - "and by end of this year, Coca-Cola will provide special vending machines in the Tokyo area and you can communicate with them with your cell phone." DoCoMo has announced a similar deal with Lawson, a Japanese convenience-store chain: Before long, i-mode phones will become electronic wallets that you simply point at the cash register. "Everybody can say, 'It's coming, it's coming!'" Natsuno declares. "But we are considering how to make it user-friendly." Before it could do any of this, DoCoMo had to introduce Java, which enables the security mechanisms that make commercial transactions possible. But Java's more immediate benefit is the animations it serves up on handsets. Though the Java service, i-appli, wasn't introduced until the end of January and requires the purchase of special phones that cost nearly $350, it had attracted more than 4 million users by the end of June. DoCoMo got a head start on its rivals: J-Sky didn't have Java until June, and KDDI's EZweb got it in July. And though DoCoMo isn't playing it up, the company has told analysts that Java users generate 2.5 times as much packet traffic as ordinary i-mode subscribers - a number with big implications for the bottom line. This is good news, if it holds, because in 2003, DoCoMo is facing a deadline that threatens its carefully tended world. Prodded by a government commission looking into its outsize share of the wireless Internet market, DoCoMo announced last March that, in two years, i-mode will be open to competitors. Among other things, this means users will be able to make sites like Yahoo! their default portal instead of just bookmarking them. DoCoMo has also agreed to make its billing system available to any company that wants to use it. Meanwhile, EZweb has upgraded its servers to open i-mode sites to its subscribers. Obviously, all this could hurt i-mode, since much of what differentiates it from the competition will be lost. Paradoxically, however, open access could end up drawing more customers, stimulating more traffic, and generating more revenue - especially for the carrier that already has the best brand and the biggest slice of the pie. "No one is going to topple DoCoMo in Japan," says Credit Suisse First Boston's Mark Berman. "But they can't get bigger here without risking further regulation. That's why they need to go overseas."

Some 4,800 miles from Tokyo, in a low-rise office complex in Redmond, Washington, Tom Trinneer is making the inevitable comparison between DoCoMo and his own company, AT&T Wireless. Last winter, DoCoMo put down $10 billion in cash for 16 percent of the third-largest wireless unit in the US. But AT&T Wireless is no DoCoMo, and its PocketNet service is no i-mode - a fact that Trinneer, its VP for multimedia strategy, is at pains to admit. "Theirs is the most successful wireless Internet business in the world," he says, "and ours is not. Nonetheless, we have 700,000 or so customers" - less than 3 percent of i-mode's total, in a country with more than twice the population - "and lots of partners. There's a lot we can learn from them - and there are things they can learn from us as well." Score one for defensiveness: It's safe to say that Natsuno does not fly to Seattle to take notes. Still, AT&T Wireless, with 16 million voice subscribers and profits last year of $76 million, is doing a lot better than some of the other foreign carriers DoCoMo invested in. DoCoMo says the idea behind its overseas strategy is to buy into top carriers around the world, but it seems to have had trouble finding any. It put $3.4 billion into the wireless unit of KPN, a small Dutch telco that then bid $6.2 billion for licenses to operate high-speed, third-generation networks in the Netherlands and Germany, leaving it more deeply in debt for its size than any other carrier in

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Europe. In the UK, DoCoMo paid $1.7 billion for 20 percent of Hutchison 3G, a startup with no customers but billions to pay in third-generation license fees and infrastructure costs. Now, with telecom stocks collapsing across Europe and America, DoCoMo's investments have collapsed as well. The company had profits last year of $3 billion, so it can afford some losses - but so far, its overseas strategy has done little except expose it to the mayhem that wireless carriers elsewhere in the world are encountering. At the same time, however, DoCoMo has laid the groundwork for a global alliance that could compete with the big four of wireless - France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom, and, above all, Vodafone, the world's largest wireless company, which has sizable stakes in carriers across 29 countries (including Verizon Wireless in the US). But Vodafone's strategy has been to gain a controlling interest in as many carriers as possible; DoCoMo is not that bold. That may be wise: "DoCoMo was a government institution until not too long ago," says Frank Sanda, CEO of Japan Communications, a company that provides wireless services to the corporate market. "You can't expect them to become a global operator overnight." But how much it can accomplish with minority investments is open to question. Nonetheless, DoCoMo is moving ahead with its plans for i-mode. Last winter, it agreed to set up a joint venture with KPN and Telecom Italia Mobile to create i-mode-type services across Europe. AT&T Wireless has set up a similar operation in Redmond, with teams of engineers and marketing execs flying back and forth between Seattle and Tokyo to trade information. "We don't intend to export i-mode as it is," says Natsuno. "It's sharing all the experience and the information - not the technology itself. We are not vendors, so just to provide technology is not our goal. But we invested a lot of money, and by sharing our experience and know-how and all these strategies, we believe we can leverage the value of AT&T Wireless, of KPN. To maximize their corporate value, that is the big mission for us." If i-mode were an American product, DoCoMo executives would already have reverse-engineered it so thoroughly they'd be able to reproduce it in their sleep. But Westerners are not used to learning from Japan - as Detroit can attest. Asked if AT&T Wireless and KPN really understand the i-mode phenomenon, Hori and his partner at Cybird, Tetsuya Sanada, who've been working with both companies, ponder the question. Hori, whose command of English is as impeccable as his gray suit, has been doing most of the talking, but this query sets Sanada off in a torrent of Japanese. Hori listens impassively for several minutes, then turns to translate. He pauses, searching for a way to be diplomatic. "He doesn't think they understand precisely every single detail," he says. And then he bursts out laughing. Do AT&T Wireless and KPN really get the i-mode phenomenon? Sanada fires off a torrent of Japanese. Hori, translating, tries to be diplomatic. "He doesn't think they understand precisely every detail." And then he bursts out laughing. The real question: Will greedy, frightened carriers learn to love being a better pipe? Does i-mode translate to the US? "Some of it does," says Tom Trinneer, but he seems a little hard-pressed to say what. The relationship with handset manufacturers is admittedly problematic: DoCoMo, with most of the Japanese market and suppliers that sell mainly in Japan, obviously has more leverage than AT&T Wireless, which has onefifth of the US market and relies on global suppliers like Ericsson and Motorola. But the Seattle team doesn't seem to be copying much else from DoCoMo, either. Despite the dismal failure of WAP, for example, AT&T Wireless is rolling out a WAP-based upgrade of its PocketNet service to run on a new, higher-speed network it's building. Next year it plans to introduce a browser that reads both WAP sites and Compact HTML sites, but in the meantime, Trinneer seems oblivious to the implications of having 150 sites - PocketNet's current total - as opposed to 47,800. "We have enough good content," he says. "Do you need 30 ways to check Mariners scores, or is three or four enough?" There's nothing uniquely Japanese about the factors that made i-mode a success - packet switching, HTML, a billing service, a fair revenue split, smart marketing, careful monitoring of content providers, even the ability to make handset manufacturers toe the line. "The phenomenon is definitely portable," says Michael Wehrs, a principal in Ignition, a Seattle-area venture firm that focuses on software and wireless. "But because carriers in the US do not have the same control over their environment, a DoCoMo-style service is threatening to their brand." You might wonder how a service that could draw tens of millions of subscribers could threaten their brands, but that would be to question the phenomenon known to content providers as carrier fear and greed. "Most of them are scared to death of losing control of the customer," explains Francis Cohen, who before starting Kiwee was a consultant in the Paris office of Arthur D. Little. "They had lessons from all these consultants - I was one of them. We told them that the network is just a commodity," that it has little value. "So the fear is that they will control only the network, and the content companies will control the relationship with the customer. They don't want to be just a pipe."

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Yet that's exactly what DoCoMo is - a conduit of raw data. DoCoMo does not itself supply any of the services available on i-mode. But it's not a dumb pipe, because in addition to the technological infrastructure, it provides the billing system that enables its partners to make money, and the marketing to sell the service to consumers. The lesson of i-mode is that rather than try to morph into media companies, wireless carriers should focus on how to be a better pipe. Instead, they're paying their developers a pittance and slapping their own brand on as much of their content as possible. "In the US, we're just way further down the evolutionary ladder," concludes Wehrs. Ultimately, however, the concepts that made i-mode a success will permeate the wireless industry, if only because they work. It may happen piecemeal, and it might not even start with DoCoMo's partners: Sprint, for example, has just introduced a Sanyo handset that looks exactly like the superlight candy-bar models that were hot in Japan a year ago. This is why DoCoMo isn't trying to license i-mode to AT&T Wireless - because there's nothing to sell. imode isn't a technology; it's an idea. "The wireless Internet is going to happen because it's like water flowing down," says Frank Sanda, one of the old hands of Japan's mobile-phone industry, an exec in Motorola's Tokyo office back when DoCoMo was still part of NTT. "God meant for us to be wireless. The last cord we were connected to was cut at birth."

Contributing editor Frank Rose (rose@wiredmag.com) wrote about US telcos in Wired 9.05.

Copyright © 1993-2004 The Condé Nast Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright © 1994-2003 Wired Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

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