Google Japan Battles Yahoo Japan and Gmail Gets Emoticons

April 30, 2009

I love reading the little hints that float around that show the small but effective revolution Google is pulling off in Japan. If you follow the news, you know why Yahoo is bigger than Google in Japan, but I’ve also been writing about how Google has been gaining ground by approaching the Japanese market through its stomach, that being the mobile world.

In the United States, it seems like the mobile advancements follow the advancements that take place on the non-mobile Internet. People want Pandora on their iPhone. Posting to WordPress or Twitter began on the computer and ended up on the phones later, now sharing a happy coexistence.

In Japan, the process is not so cut and clear and it’s interesting to watch. As I’ve mentioned before, Yahoo has the infrastructure, and arguably it has greater access to infrastructure in mobile search as well since it is one of the three major carriers (Softbank). However this is what makes the mobile world a battleground. Google can find other companies who also want to do battle with Yahoo Mobile and Softbank. Why would AU or Docomo want to rely on a competitor for its mobile search needs.

This is where Google swoops in and cuts deals to be the default search on Docomo and AU KDDI. My phone is AU and the default search is Google. Google is working hard to make Reader, Gmail, maps, and public transportation search (one of the most important and useful features of mobile phones in Japan which provides train times and costs for Japan Rail, private train and subway lines, and the shinkansen).

Softbank naturally uses Yahoo! Japan’s mobile search as its default so getting AU KDDI and Docomo to use Google was big. I am also hoping to see one of these two companies come out with an G-phone or Android in response to the iPhone going with Softbank (Yahoo!).

As for the emoticons… well, they are straight outta my phone. Meaning these are the emoticons that are used in Japanese cell phones. As Google’s Official Gmail Blog states in their recent post “New in Labs – Extra Emoticons“, they got them from the labs of “some of the top Japanese mobile carriers, with permission”.

The fact is though that they have ALL of the emoticons from ALL three major mobile carriers in Japan INCLUDING Yahoo Softbank! This also makes a positive guy like me think that not only are Yahoo and Google competing in Japan in a healthy way, there is also some degree of cooperation and an effort to provide consumers with the best they can.

The last thing I would like to mention about these new emoticons in gmail is that it seems they didn’t pick through the emoticons to needlessly discard ones they didn’t think American would use. They are all in there!

Kimonos , Mount Fuji , they symbol for onsen hot spring resorts , mah jong , sake , and even commonly used japanese character emoticons like the one for secret , and congratulations . There is also the inevitable poop emoticon that keeps showing up in news stories about the extra emoticons gmail has added. I leave you with them…     .

There is a lot to learn about business in Japan watching these two very savvy companies go at it. Yahoo! Japan does a lot of things right here in Japan, and Google seems to have gotten some good people on board here as well. If the battle continues this way, we consumers and users will continue to benefit from free and open competition. To that I say  .