Is U.S. mobile innovation getting soft?
The U.S. has one of the world’s largest mobile markets, but does it still have the most innovative? Japan’s Softbank, which is on deck to acquire roughly 70 percent of Sprint Nextel for over $20 billion, certainly doesn’t think so. At a time when many consumers are probably okay as long as they’re holding a cool smartphone in their hands and the “4G” icon lights up on the screen (whether or not they're actually getting 4G speeds), Softbank thinks there’s a lot more that can be done to spark the next round of mobile innovation and prod the big legacy carriers.
For $20 billion, Softbank is essentially betting that it can introduce the innovative types of products and services that behemoths like AT&T or Verizon either can’t — or won’t — introduce to their customers. That means the coolest devices on the fastest networks with the most innovative services and data plans for data-hungry mobile users. In Japan, Softbank was the first to introduce iPhones to their customers when bigger, stodgier NTT DoCoMo and KDDI wouldn’t. They were also the first to bang the drum for faster, more innovative wireless networks like 4G LTE. Expect more of the same now that they’re coming to America.
That’s because, in many quarters, Softbank is viewed as Japan's equivalent of Apple — a relentless innovator with a Steve Jobs-like billionaire maverick at the helm ready to take on the big boys. Once you read any of the back stories on Softbank president Masayoshi Son — a guy who grew up dirt-poor in the slums of Japan and was branded as an outsider because of his Korean ancestry — it’s almost impossible not to see the Softbank-Sprint deal as evidence that the U.S. mobile market is headed for a major shakeup. Masayoshi Son is already on record for calling network speeds in America "unbearable." This is a guy who bets big, and plays to win. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal’s Kenneth Maxwell wrote that this was the “biggest, boldest overseas deal ever by a Japanese company”, according to a report in The Washington Post. >>More here