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Asia and Pacific Region Forum

Google Blasts into Japan with I-Mode Engine

 9:55 pm on Feb 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

Using the new application, Google said it can translate a requested HTML document into a format optimized for i-mode users, making the new service the first search engine enabling access to more than 1.3 billion Web pages from i-mode wireless phones. Google already offers an application that converts HTML Web pages into WML, the markup language supported by most mobile phone microbrowsers.




 10:07 pm on Feb 27, 2001 (gmt 0)

That looks to be a good move for Google, i-mode is huge in Japan and the wireless PDA market is developing in leaps and bounds in Europe.

You can see it in action at [google.com]

Got to be Top 5 if you target the wireless search market!


 2:21 am on Feb 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

Wow. That's huge. It's not just a search engine, it's a whole new way for i-mode users to view the web.

I plugged the Google URL into my i-mode phone and checked it out. From the results of just a few searches, I'd say results are the same as on regular Google. The beauty of the whole thing is that Google takes the results pages, rips out the graphics, tables and other elements that are not cHTML compatible, and splits up the page into small i-mode digestible chunks. (i-mode phones can only view pages up to 2K in size. The newer phones can see up to 5K, but Google seems to have gone the safe route.) This means I can now see the text of virtually any HTML page on the web. This opens up the reach of i-mode dramatically.

Until now there have been i-mode search engines that sought out pages specifically formatted for the i-mode phone (e.g., cHTML) like [url=iseek.infoseek.co.jp]Infoseek[/url], and [url=mobile.alltheweb.com]Fast[/url]. This is completely different. Google has made it possible for me to see the rest of the web!

I guess my phone bill this month is going to be huge again :(


 5:38 am on Feb 28, 2001 (gmt 0)

I was inspired by this to take a look at the archives of a mailing list for i-mode developers I occasionally subscribe to. I wanted to see what they thought of this.

If anyone's interested, there's [url=www.appelsiini.net/keitai-l/archives/2001-02/]a thread[/url] started by a Google representative asking how Google's robot/spider could be set up to recognize i-mode pages.

The thread is entitled "determining what is an i-mode page"


 12:06 am on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

Also see Google's jsky,ezweb



 3:54 am on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

brilliant stuff. removes all the noise and gives just text in small screen chunks. only downside for us.. no js for our ads! Looks like we dont have to create special pages for mobile devices after all!

This is a very nice strategic move by Google. They have seen the future where accessing the internet via the PC would be far less prevalent. The future is a whole lot of consumers accessing internet content through phones, hand helds, on the plane, train, and street (any maybe even in the dunny woz!) PC access will be more limited to business and coporate uses and b3b, consumers on the other hand, will be accessing the internet in small chunks of text, and secondarily will be looking for fast changing targeted content.

I can see some implications for us as an e-mag already, - eg providing small pages with no header except for a title and URL, immediately followed by concise summaries of the latest content/news/ etc. and providing contact details at the bottom.

Iid love to see a universally recongnised metatag or similar that indicates the page is speciafically optimized for small screen text only readers (wireless, imode, phones, handhelds etc)

It is particularly exciting for the Asian market. Imode in Japan, SMS in Philippines, and developing countries which are leapfrogging the need for landlines and where mobile access is fast becoming the accepted mainstream method of accessing internet content.

Viva la revolution!


 5:06 am on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

When this came out I was jumping up and down thinking that this Google iMode engine was going to be the best thing since flat-fee internet access...well, over the past year I find myself barely using the thing. I've found a bunch of news, weather and other pages specifically formatted for the iMode phone, I've bookmarked them, and I find that I rarely surf on my phone as much as I used to.

It's nice to know the Google tools are available, but I wonder how heavily they're being used...it's slightly awkward to type things into a phone, and the preferable method of navigating is following links.


 5:19 am on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

ive never used imode.. or even a mobile phone, though working in singapore, malaysia, and thailand, they are everywhere. Expecially in thailand and malaysia where public phones are rare, and usually out of order, its no wonder these countries have some of the largest penetration of handphones vs fixed lines ratios in the world.

So i find bill's observation very interesting. I do think these things need a critical mass. For example i never used the Web regularly till i had 5 o 6 real good reasons to go there.. cetain sites and email. The variety of info has to be extended as well.

Im not sure I totally agree with you bill that the nature of navigating the PC hosted web - links - is a major hurdle. I feel that a different navigation mode may emerge for mobile services - maybe bookmarks for those services you need.. stock quotes, news, messenger etc. I think we are looking at a very different way of accessing the internet which extends to access behaviour as well. Im not too convinced that anybody would want to SURF the web, a la on a big screen with a fast connection. It will be more important for providers to brand and advertise their services in related off web media and through relationships with hardware manufacturers, just off the top of the head.

However, your point is vey valid. We are at very early stages. It gives me the feeling at a stage of around 1995/6 for the Web, where very few people accessed it, and there were very few sites. It took a while longer for it it become part of people's lifestyle to any critical mass.


 6:00 am on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

Although not i-mode, I had a similar experience as Bill when I first got my Palm, thinking I would be able to download my news automatically and read offline. That is, until the novelty wore off.

I think these systems will in the future be very useful and successful, but they have a long way to go.



 8:45 am on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

Here are some screengrabs of iMode phones [nooper.co.jp] so you can see what I'm talking about. The gallery there shows some older models, but the screen size is pretty much the same size on the newer models.

First off iMode is a service, not some sort of technology. NTT DoCoMo is the company that provides this service (in Japan), and they have many phone manufacturers making hardware for them. The key point with iMode service is that everyone has the same start page, called the i-Menu. This start page is reminiscent of Yahoo circa 1994 or so...a bunch of category links under which are approved vendor's site links. Phones have a 4-way directional navigation button that is used to move thru the list (pages only scroll vertically).

Portable phones will probably never have enough screen real-estate to allow for a PC-like navigation, but are very good with the drill down menu, follow-the-links type of navigation. I find myself looking for appropriate category sites and then following the links rather than doing keyword searches on search engines like Google, and that surprises me the most. I thought it would be the opposite...but like Woz, the thrill died off a bit, and I find myself busy doing other things. It is real handy on the commute home though...everyone on the train is busy pecking out e-mail, playing games or reading their favorite sites (on their phones of course ;))

My best guess for the next killer app for web accessible phones (after e-mail) will be global positioning and maps. The screen resolutions on the new phones are incredible, and several companies have first version GPS tracking services available now or soon to be released...with the lack of posted street names in Japan and the complexity of finding anything here this has real potential as the quality of the service improves and the prices drop.


 9:08 am on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thanks again Bill. Very useful info and a great thread.


 4:29 pm on May 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

dokomo phones have to be the se*iest cells i've ever seen. when my girlfriends mom went back to japan she brought me back many flyers from some technology street with all the neato stuff. I gotta say I'd toss all my equipment for some of that stuff there.

My question is are there stats on how many people use google from their iMode enabled phones?


 1:54 am on May 8, 2002 (gmt 0)

The bleeding edge stuff is neat to look at, but a lot of the time it's a solution to a problem that does not yet exist...I see a lot of this stuff and really have to stop and think just what the heck would I use this gizmo for?

My question is are there stats on how many people use google from their iMode enabled phones?
That type of info could only be accurately obtained from NTT DoCoMo itself, and I doubt they'd release stats like that. Maybe if GoogleGuy was feeling generous he could share some stats with us ;)

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