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Google Plays Catch-Up in Japan With New TV Spots and Free WiFi

Google's offering free Wi-fi access in cafes—but not in the U.S. The company is busy wooing customer affections in another country: Japan, where it's losing the search engine battle.

google japan

We're used to Google dominating pretty much everything search engine-related (and dabbling in many other business sectors) on this half of the globe. But it's just not the case in Japan where, like the Xbox, it runs a distant second to Yahoo! Japan (which is run by Softbank). As The New York Times noted on the weekend, Google owns just 33.7% of the search market in Japan versus Yahoo's 56.5%.

Hence Google's Sagasou promotional campaign—and free wireless broadband Internet in a number of restaurants and cafes across the country from now until February 28. It's happening with the help of NTT's WiFine wireless system, and it's limited to a single access event each day for just 30 minutes of time. Hence the need to register your device with the system before accessing it—not too much too ask for free Wi-fi.

Google's also launched a new TV spot to boost its image in Japan:

The ad is just the latest step in Google's effort to promote itself. So far the endeavor has included weird events like floating passers-by into the air under 2,500 helium balloons, and even adapting Google's traditionally spartan (nay, empty and boring) homepage to include links to youTube and GMail. And it's the second video produced for Google Japan, here's the first:

Will these efforts work? The Times notes the "Japanese propensity for trying new things" as a good reason to think Google's tactics might pay off—but it also means that if Google does manage to capture attention, it needs to persist in those efforts, as it could be just as easy to lose new customers as to win them. Presumably that means Japanese Net users can expect more deals like this one to arrive soon.

[Via JapanProbe, The New York Times]