Toshiba has become the latest of Japan's major electronics makers to charge head-first into the world of the Internet.
It announced on Monday plans to create a new in-house company, i-Value Creation, focused solely on the creation of digital content, and to establish a division within its Information and Industrial Systems and Services company to increase use of business-to-business e-commerce services within the company, it said in a statement.
The i-Value Creation company will initially have two divisions, the Webtop Service Division and Media and Content Division. The former will be charged with development of information and portal services, principally for mobile Internet applications, while the latter will oversee the planning and development of in-house content businesses and promote new services that will take advantage of Internet, digital television and other platforms.
Although several of Japan's electronics giants have announced plans to centre their business around the Internet, Toshiba is the first to put such a strong emphasis on mobile Internet.
The company has seen the explosive popularity of current first-generation services, such as the i-mode service of NTT Mobile Communications Network (NTT DoCoMo) and the WAP (wireless application protocol)-based services of DDI Cellular and Nippon Ido Tsushin, which have managed to attract five million users in less than a year. Moreover, it is eyeing the upcoming launch of broadband mobile Internet services, scheduled for early 2001 in Japan, as a market it cannot miss out on.
Toshiba already has first-hand experience in the sector through its "Eki-mae Tanken Club" service, which, according to the company, currently attracts one million page views per day to its database of entertainment spots in and around railway stations. The service offers both Web and mobile Internet versions.
In the near term, before broadband services are available, Toshiba said it plans to offer stock prices and financial market information to mobile users and is joining with Nihon Short Wave Broadcasting, a leading broadcaster of financial market information, on an information service. Through a further link with Matsui Securities, the service will provide wireless stock trading.
The company also said it will invest an undisclosed amount in Hon-Ya-San, an Internet bookseller.
Toshiba's second initiative to push the use of information technology will be the e-Net division within its Information and Industrial Systems and Services. The company said the new division will develop Internet-based procurement and transaction systems, electronic documentation and management systems, and ASP services for corporate customers.
One of the first customers for the new systems will be Toshiba itself. The company plans to have all of its procurement online by 2001 and says this could realise savings in 2003 of 200 billion yen ($US1.83 billion) in procurement costs over 1999.