Japanese consumer tastes make for interesting analysis because they have a tendency to be early adopters for most kinds of tech hardware. The Japanese canaries in the worldwide silicon goldmine are signaling a profound change in consumer tastes right now: they've stopped buying personal computers.
It's clear why consumers are shunning PCs.
Millions download music directly to their mobiles, and many more use their handsets for online shopping and to play games. Digital cameras connect directly to printers and high-definition TVs for viewing photos, bypassing PCs altogether. Movies now download straight to TVs.
More than 50 percent of Japanese send e-mail and browse the Internet from their mobile phones, according to a 2006 survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The same survey found that 30 percent of people with e-mail on their phones used PC-based e-mail less, including 4 percent who said they had stopped sending e-mails from PCs completely.
The fastest growing social networking site here, Mobagay Town, is designed exclusively for cell phones. Other networking sites like mixi, Facebook and MySpace can all be accessed and updated from handsets, as can the video-sharing site YouTube.
There's another reason, too. Unlike many other parts of the world, the Japanese associate the personal computer with work, and even though they are famous workaholics, they don't like to take work home. They should move to America, where everyone goofs off all day surfing the net at work, and then frantically works on business documents at home at night to catch up.