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This is a Japanese invention, an Internet-connected mobile phone system that has taken that country by storm since it was introduced in early 1999 by DoCoMo, a firm controlled by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone. It allows people access online to send e-mails, to obtain information such as news, weather forecasts, train times, and sports results, and to carry out online banking and stock trading. It is not that different in principle to WAP, the heavily promoted European system. However, WAP has had sluggish take-up because it is slow and difficult to use and there are few sites to link to; I-mode has the advantage that its Internet access is always on. DoCoMo has recently invested in the Dutch telecoms operator KPN and will soon launch a European version of its system on the GPRS (General Packet Radio System) services that are only now being launched; it is very likely also to move into the USA following a deal with AOL. Industry watchers are suggesting it may overtake and force out WAP altogether.

Worse, Wap’s struggle to find a market in Europe and the US is being contrasted with the exploding popularity of NTT DoCoMo’s more advanced i-mode system in Japan. A VHS v Betamax-style formats war may be brewing.

Guardian, Aug. 2000

As well as using KPN’s existing WAP capabilities, the joint venture will introduce NTT’s highly successful i-mode mobile Internet service to Europe.

Time, Oct. 2000

Page created 2 Dec. 2000

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World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 2 December 2000.