Son mourns as he announces iPhone pricing


Staff Writer

Softbank Corp. President Masayoshi Son mourned Friday over the death of a key business partner, Apple founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, on the same day that his company started receiving reservations for the new iPhone 4S.

Son revealed Softbank’s pricing policy for the latest model in the popular iPhone series, offering relatively low monthly fees and handset prices on condition that the user commit to a two-year contract.

Softbank has monopolized the extremely popular smartphone series in Japan but will now be facing competition from rival KDDI Corp., which also won local distribution rights for the iPhone 4S.

“I felt I had a hole in my heart all day yesterday,” Son said at the start of a news conference to announce the carrier’s fees and services for the iPhone 4S.

“I was feeling how much he meant to me,” Son said.

Son also said he had a hard time accepting that Jobs had died because Tim Cook had told him in a recent meeting that when the Apple chief turned over the CEO title to Cook, Jobs vowed to continue working for the firm.

Son said he and Jobs talked for the first time at the home of Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison while viewing cherry blossoms at a time when Apple was on the verge of going down.

He didn’t specify when that was, but Apple was in tough financial difficulty in the 1990s.

Son quoted Ellison as saying he claimed at an Apple board meeting that the only way to pull the company out of the crisis was to bring Jobs back.

Jobs, who was fired from the company he cofounded, returned to Apple in 1997 as interim CEO. He eventually turned the company around and transformed Apple into the most valuable technology company in the world.

“To me, he was a hero, a great master and the god above the clouds. But I want to say ‘thank you’ for his welcoming me with open arms,” Son said.

Apple officially announced Wednesday that KDDI, Japan’s second-biggest cellphone carrier, will also start providing the iPhone, emerging as a powerful competitor for Son’s Softbank.

“I want to promise Steve that I will achieve (the same) goal as his — providing something that can deeply move as many people as possible,” Son said.

Softbank also released a list of prices and campaign services for the iPhone 4S, ready to do battle with KDDI’s au service.

Softbank, the country’s third-largest carrier in subscriber numbers, will offer the latest smartphone at prices ranging from free to ¥21,120 on condition that the user locks in to a two-year contract.

The price will be ¥480 more for the 64-gigabyte model than what KDDI plans to charge. The monthly bill for unlimited data use will remain at ¥4,410, slightly lower than KDDI’s ¥4,980, for up to 24 months.

Addressing complaints about relatively poor reception of its wireless phone network, Softbank said it now has 160,000 base stations, up from 20,000 at the end of March 2006.