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Mobile

2Roam heads to Asia

Matsushita Electric is selling 2Roam's wireless software to customers on the Pacific Rim. A financial institution in Japan, called Promise, is the duo's first customer.

2Roam has joined the great Asian wireless market-share grab.

Matsushita Electric Industrial, the makers of Panasonic devices, is now selling 2Roam's wireless software to customers on the Pacific Rim, both companies announced Monday. A financial institution in Japan, called Promise, is the duo's first customer.

This is 2Roam's first major Asian deal, and the company said there will soon be more Japanese businesses using the 2Roam software to create a mobile Web presence. 2Roam is opening up an office in Japan hoping to lure more business, as well as working with Matsushita to customize a version of the 2Roam software.

Analysts say the deal, like others intended to move in on Asian markets, makes sense given the slow adoption of the wireless Web by U.S. residents. But it also means taking on NTT DoCoMo, the creators of the wildly popular I-mode mobile Web services which has an estimated 15 million to 20 million users.

"There is a lot of greener pasture, a lot of fertile customer fields out in the East and Europe," said Keith Waryas, analyst with market researcher IDC. "Getting there is one thing, developing a brand presence is something else."

There will be more companies looking to Japan, salivating over the 70 percent cell phone penetration and the large percentage of Japanese using their cell phones to surf the Internet, analysts say.

The reason is strictly by the numbers. A survey conducted by consulting company Accenture found that 15 percent of all cell phone or portable device owners in general are surfing the wireless Web. But in Japan, the survey found that 72 percent of all cell phone owners were using the wireless Web. In the United States, it's about 6 percent, according to analysts.

Another survey, conducted by IDC, shows that there were 8.6 million people in the United States using their PCs to access a Web-based brokerage firm, compared to the 800,000 doing the same but with a wireless device.