Japanese mobile phone innovator praises iPhone

One of Japan's top cell phone innovators says that for all his country's technological prowess, it could never have produced the iPhone.

An Associated Press report also quoted Takeshi Natsuno, who developed Japan's first Internet-linking cell phone service 'i-mode' in 1999, when such systems were still ground-breaking, saying that 'Japanese telecommunications industry stifles the kind of creativity that is so apparent in Apple's web-surfing phone.'

'This is a great device. This kind of device cannot be produced by Japanese manufacturers. Never,' he said during an interview with The Associated Press.

While Japanese cell phones offer similar features as the iPhone, they lack its easy-to-use touch panel and slick design, he said.

Natsuno, 43, who quit top Japanese mobile carrier DoCoMo three months ago, expressed disenchantment with this nation's phone industry, which he said was dominated by stodgy conservatives, who lacked the charisma and creative sensibilities of a Steve Jobs, chief executive at Cupertino, California-based Apple, the Associated Press report said.

Natsuno's i-mode, a key part of Japan's mobile technological innovation _ became a hit when the rest of the world was using cell phones for old-fashioned chatting. Natsuno also led the foray into 3G mobile phones, as well as 'wallet phones' that allow electronic payments, the report said.

Yet throughout his interview at the Tokyo office of Dwango, a mobile service company where he serves as adviser, Natsuno, grumbled about the shortcomings of Japan.

Natsuno scoffed at the stereotype Japanese businessman as boring in their obsession with technology for technology's sake.

'They have to take a risk,' said Natsuno. 'To do that, clear direction, clear vision, clear leadership are necessary.'

The iPhone, introduced in Japan last month, has drawn long lines although it still makes up a tiny portion of Japan's 115 million cell-phone market, and even Natsuno acknowledged he carries around a DoCoMo handset because the iPhone lacks some handy Japan-style features such as the wallet phone.