NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile carrier, is partnering with Google to offer search and e-mail on its handsets, according to news reports.
DoCoMo subscribers could have access to Google's search tool, Gmail e-mail service, Picasa photo-sharing software, and Google Calendar application early next year via DoCoMo's i-Mode network, according to Reuters.
The report cited unnamed sources, and Google and DoCoMo could not immediately be reached for comment. However, according to Japan's main business daily, The Nikkei, DoCoMo is hoping to establish a closer relationship with Google than its growing competitors.
Last month, DoCoMo joined the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 34 companies that have pledged to work with Google and its Android platform.
Google vs. Yahoo
Yahoo has inked several mobile services deals in Asia, but if Google and DoCoMo partner, it could be a major coup for both companies.
Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research described the rumored deal as one more win for Google and another opportunity for the search titan to get its services and content into an important mobile market.
Google would gain access to DoCoMo's 49 million users of its i-Mode mobile phone Internet service in a market where Yahoo leads the pack.
"What we are seeing is that it's not an issue of dominance on the mobile platform," Gartenberg said, noting that Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google all are making significant inroads onto mobile handsets. "It's an issue about many strong players each trying to grow stronger."
He said the mobile world has not turned into a winner-take-all scenario like PC desktops. "In 2008," he concluded, "we'll see different players try to break away from the crowd."
The mobile services market is growing by leaps and bounds. According to a recent study from ABI Research, the market value for mobile video telephony services, including video mail, video calling, and video sharing, will grow from $1 billion in 2007 to over $17 billion by 2012. That's a compound annual growth rate of 74 percent.
"The Web 2.0 phenomena and sites that allow posting of mobile video will increase demand for mobile video services," said Dan Shey, a principal analyst at ABI Research, in a research note.
"However, global demand inhibitors include income levels, messaging and video viewing alternatives, and handset capabilities," Shey said. "And then there is the uncertainty factor for operators of video services on network utilization, which will affect their promotion and pricing strategies."