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This case provides a rich forum to illustrate a pioneer's move from innovation to profit. It shows the power of the dominant design, barriers to appropriability and complementary assets, as well as the critical role of process capabilities. NTT DoCoMo, Japan's leading mobile-communications company, had become known as the world's "pioneer of mobile Internet services." The company's i-mode, low-band, mobile Internet service became a giant success. By 2002, the days of rapid growth had faded as the market became saturated. DoCoMo continued technology advancements and offered data services such as streaming audio, photo, and video-sending capacity with its 3G network. DoCoMo's 3G mobile phones, Freedom of Mobile multimedia Access (FOMA), had surpassed the 320,000 target number for the March 31, 2003, deadline.
The case raises the innovator’s dilemma twice: first, as wireless Internet emerges, and second, (potentially) as new technologies appear on the horizon of wireless multimedia. The material allows the class to explore the definitions and implications of sustaining and disruptive technologies. In a more general strategy course, the case enables a discussion of how to sustain advantage, under what conditions advantage can transfer internationally, and how the evolution of standards and networks affects these issues.