The Nikkei: KDDI To Start Offering The iPad Mini From November

The existence of a smaller version of the iPad hasn’t even been confirmed by Apple yet, but here is something fresh from the rumor mill in Japan: according to a report published in The Nikkei today, KDDI is currently “finalizing a deal” under which the company will start offering the “iPad Mini” from November.

So far, rival SoftBank has been the sole 3G service provider for the iPad in Japan. The country’s third largest carrier also monopolized the domestic iPhone market until Apple tied up with KDDI, too, in October last year.

One year later, it looks like history repeats itself, but this time with a tablet.

If the Nikkei report is to be believed, KDDI asked Apple to sell the current generation of the iPad in Japan earlier this year as well, but the deal fell through.

The paper is not ruling out the possibility that SoftBank will offer the iPad Mini along with KDDI.

As a reaction to the rumor, KDDI stock rose today at the Tokyo Stock Exchange, while shares of SoftBank fell.

For $12.8 Million: Yahoo Japan Acquires Decopic Creator Community Factory

Acquisitions are relatively rare in Japan’s tech startup scene, but today Yahoo Japan caused a splash when the country’s biggest web company announced it acquired Tokyo-based Community Factory (which launched in 2006).

TechCrunch Japan is reporting that the price stands at around 1 billion yen, which currently translates to US$12.8 million.

Community Factory runs a number of social services and apps, but in its press release, Yahoo Japan singles out Decopic, a multi-lingual photo sharing application that currently boasts 7 million downloads on Android and iOS (profile on Asiajin from last year).

According to TechCrunch Japan, the so-called Mixi Fund, set up by Japan’s largest real-identity social network Mixi back in 2009, is the biggest shareholder in Community Factory (40%).

Yahoo Japan’s move isn’t surprising: the company’s new CEO Manabu Miyasaka said in April (when he took over from Masahiro Inoue) that he plans to strengthen Yahoo Japan’s position in the mobile and social fields.

Just a few days ago, Yahoo Japan also announced it has set up the YJ Capital fund (capitalized at 1 billion yen) to invest in promising startups.

Nico Nico Douga Hits 28 Million Users, Generates US$46 Million In Sales Last Quarter


Nico Nico Douga, Japan’s answer to YouTube, is still growing nicely, five years after launch.

Dwango, the Tokyo-based company behind the popular service, released its financial report [PDF] for the last nine months (ending in June 2012).

And according to the report, Nico Nico (the company’s most important asset) reached 28.08 million users in June. In other words, nearly a third of Japan’s online population has an account, which is pretty amazing.

Another interesting tidbit of information is that Nico Nico has 1.69 million premium members who pay 525 Yen (US$6.70) per month for advanced features, for example better video quality:

Here are more details about who is actually using Nico Nico. Observe Dwango’s claim that 90% of Japan’s population in their 20s is a user:

Nico Nico is profitable and generated 3.6 billion yen (US$46 million) in sales from April to June this year:

Nico Nico’s English version can be visited here.

SoftBank Starts Using The 900MHz “Platinum Band”

There can be no doubt that SoftBank is the mobile carrier with the weakest network among Japan’s big three telcos, following that of NTT Docomo and KDDI. But now there is hope that things will finally change for the better.

Back in March this year, the Japanese government decided to allocate the 900-megahertz band (also dubbed “platinum band”) to SoftBank. And yesterday, the company finally started using the band, with plans to set up a total of 42,000 compatible base stations all over Japan by 2019.

Users can check the areas that are serviced by visiting this website (it looks like large parts of Greater Tokyo will get covered by September this year).

SoftBank, which currently has 30 million subscribers, expects cost for the network upgrade to amount to around US$10.5 billion.

Last month, the Japanese government allocated another “platinum band” to Docomo, KDDI, and eAccess: SoftBank’s rivals plan to use the 700-megahertz band for their LTE services from 2015.

 

Rakuten Starts Featuring Pinterest On Its Japanese Marketplace And Other Properties

Japan’s biggest e-commerce company Rakuten (US$15 billion market cap, about 80 million user accounts in Japan) has started featuring Pinterest on some of its biggest websites yesterday.

Big R caused a major splash in back in May when it led a massive US$100 million investment in the American startup.

Rakuten CEO Mikitani was quoted as saying that his company has many dormant users with a Rakuten ID who he would like to see re-activated by teaming up with Pinterest.

TechCrunch wrote in May:

It is this ID that will potentially become the lynchpin of a commercial service on Pinterest: “We want to enable our users to pin their own images with our ID,” he says. “Users can click and buy with it, and in the future we can create more new services.” He notes that the “rich, graphic social network” can be used for “so many interesting ideas using the Rakuten ID.” One other area, TechCrunch understands, is for users logged in with Rakuten IDs to pin images and then use those pins to buy items away from Pinterest, on Rakuten’s own Rakuten Ichiba site.

And now this plan is being put into practice.

“Pin it” buttons are now visible in the Rakuten Ichiba virtual mall, Rakuten Travel and Rakuten Recipe, enabling users to send images to their Pinterest pinboards with one click.

The “Pin it” button is actually hard to spot, but don’t be surprised: that’s typical Rakuten design.

What I find weird is that certain pages don’t seem to feature the Pinterest button, i.e. the one for the Kobo Touch reader that was introduced a few days ago and is currently the most popular item (perhaps because it’s just a pre-order):

For beginners, Rakuten also set up a special “How to use Pinterest” page, which can be accessed here.