Google is making a push to expand its reach in the Yahoo owned Japanese market via targeting where the majority of Japanese users spend their time online, their cell phones.
Google has partnered with NTT DoCoMo, a major cell phone carrier in Japan to power their default search on all phones, bringing Google power to DoCoMo’s 48 million subscribers.
This is also a response to the huge push Softbank (Yahoo Japan’s parent company) made when they acquired Vodafone Japan, and began offering Yahoo powered phones with lowered payment plans, across the country.
Let’s remember that Japan is one very large market where Yahoo essentially powers the traditional Internet; from being an Internet provider and offering ADSL services (even owning a baseball team), to being the search and social network of choice amongst the Japanese market (enjoying a 66% share).
(I also love this Cameron Diaz commercial for Softbank)
Google has always done well in Japan with AdWords and search partnerships, but never really has broken into the mainstream as the powerful brand they are in the US and Europe.
This latest move by Google & DoCoMo could lead to a difference, as Google searches in Japan have been increasing in the past year.
The real story in this equation is that Google’s growth or Yahoo’s continued dominance in the Japanese market may however be more dependent on a third party.
If DoCoMo secures the rights to be the exclusive iPhone dealer in Japan (Softbank and DoCoMo are currently fighting for the Apple contract), given the love for the iPod in Tokyo, I could see Google’s market share climbing quite high. If SoftBank secures the deal, Yahoo (which would be the default search on Japanese iPhones) would sustain its control of the market.