Amazon Envy II: Rakuten now wants to produce hardware (a barcode scanner)

Another case of Amazon envy from Rakuten, Japan’s biggest online shopping “mall”? It seems so.
According to various reports, Rakuten is currently pondering the development of a barcode scanner. One of the reason for Rakuten to get into the hardware business – according to a company representative quoted by The Nikkei (“Japan’s Wall Street Journal”) – is that “Amazon has the Kindle, and Apple has the iPhone”.
That’s a quite interesting view on things. The device, if it really comes out, will scan bar codes printed on products to automatically find the lowest price on Rakuten’s gigantic site for the item in question (after connecting it to a computer, obviously). That means the reader, which will be the first piece of hardware manufactured by Rakuten itself, won’t be usable anywhere else.
Rakuten says it sees the device being used mainly for products people use on a daily basis, for example tissues and such. A first test run for the reader with 1,000 Rakuten members is scheduled to begin this fall. The company aims at making the reader as compact and cheap as possible (even distributing the device for free is apparently under discussion).


  1. Interesting move but I do not think the specialized hardware is the best way to let their customers do that. Most Japanese cellphones are capable to scan barcode and those phones are always with them, so making a scan app and distributing for free is enough, and much faster to release.

    1. Haha. Good to remember that.
      But Japan is the place QR Code is really popular and used. Many marketers oversea would think the QR-code promotion silly.
      I recently read that Sony failed to sell digital photo frame last century. In Tokyo, there are now many Webvan ( ) like services, one of which I use. So I am not 100% sure if it fails. 😉

  2. Good point, but wouldn’t mobile software be cheaper/easier and more ubiquitous? What advantage would this hardware device have?

  3. I definitely agree to make solution only by software. It’s far cheaper. Maybe Rakuten earns too much profit and want to spend more.

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