NTT DoCoMo Inc. (9437), Japan's largest mobile-phone operator, plans to sell a handset that uses Google Inc. (GOOG:US)'s Android software in the first half of 2009 to bolster its lineup of models that compete with Apple Inc.'s iPhone.
The carrier aims to increase its lineup of so-called smart phones to ``close to 10'' in the 12 months ending December 2009, from 6 this fiscal year started April 1, DoCoMo's President Ryuji Yamada said at a press briefing in Tokyo today. The devices will include models that run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software, handsets by Nokia AG and Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM)'s new BlackBerry, he said.
Smart phones may help DoCoMo recover shrinking market share and challenge Apple's (AAPL:US) iPhone, offered by Softbank Corp. (9984) in Japan. Google formed the Open Handset Alliance in November to develop Android with more than 30 phone makers, carriers and chipmakers including DoCoMo, chipmaker Intel Corp. (INTC:US), and mobile-phone manufacturer Motorola Inc.
Android is based on the free Linux operating system and is open to any programmer who wants to develop features for wireless devices. Software developers can build custom applications to run with the program.
In the past year, Softbank added three times as many new subscribers as DoCoMo, with KDDI attracting 50 percent more users. DoCoMo added a net 903,100 subscribers in the 12 months ended August 30, compared with 2.6 million for Softbank and 1.3 million for KDDI, according to numbers released by the carriers.
By offering code anyone can use, Google is seeking to break the hold phone companies have on the kinds of applications that run on its devices.
T-Mobile USA Inc. became the first company to unveil a mobile phone to run on Google's Android software earlier this month. The G1, which has a touch screen and a slide-out keyboard, uses an open-source platform that allows anyone to develop programs for the device.
The G1, made by Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC Corp. (2498), lets customers use Google applications to search the Web, get directions and read the news. The device also has a media player that connects to Amazon.com Inc.'s music Web site, similar to Apple's online iTunes store.
DoCoMo also said today it will introduce Research In Motion's BlackBerry ``Bold'' model to woo business users. The handset offers a brighter display, global positioning and will be available in the January to March quarter, the Tokyo-based company said.
The company's shares gained 1.3 percent to close at 169,200 yen in Tokyo trading. The stock has declined 9 percent this year.
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