DoCoMo aims for the i-mode effect again
Japanese cellco bids to acquire mobile content aggregator Buongiorno, to build international presence again
Published: 16 May, 2012
Harking back to its glory days at the dawn of the mobile web, NTT DoCoMo has made a bid for Italian mobile content provider Buongiorno, for €224m, looking to replicate its old i-mode strategy.
The offer has already gained partial acceptance as Mauro Del Rio, owner of about 20% of the smaller firm's stock, has entered into an undertaking with the operator's German arm, DoCoMo Deutschland, to tender all his shares.
This looks like another attempt by DoCoMo to play an international role in wireless applications and media. Its i-mode platform helped define the first phase of the mobile web and remains hugely successful in Japan. But its impact was felt in the days when the main alternative was the scarcely usable WAP, and by the time it embarked on a major program of international licensing and partnerships, the user and developer experiences were already moving on. Despite support from operators like O2 UK, i-mode never achieved anything like the profile it had at home.
However, DoCoMo remains influential round the world, forming handset and content alliances, including one with Telefonica, and taking part in carrier initiatives like Wholesale Application Community. Now it says it aims to leverage the extensive international customer base for Buongiorno's services to bring its mobile business models and expertise, gained through i-mode, to other markets.
"As part of expanding the businesses of both companies, DoCoMo expects to strengthen the foundation of its mobile platform businesses overseas," the firm said in a statement. Guillermo Escofet, senior analyst at Informa, told TotalTelecom: "i-mode remains the single most successful example of a mobile content offering, as DoCoMo had its Eureka moment 12 years ago and created a brilliant ecosystem for mobile content in Japan. But when it tried to replicate that abroad, it just didn't work."
Buongiorno's main business is as a mobile content aggregator, and it is one of few survivors from a host of such companies which grew up a decade ago. Buongiorno has links with operators all over the world, as well as a direct-to-consumer presence in many territories.