Personal computers became well known among the general public.
Although PCs were too expensive to penetrate the consumer market at the time, the fact that Japanese major companies also began developing and selling computers was a testament to the level of attention PCs attracted.
SOFTBANK Corp. Japan
(currently, SoftBank Group Corp.)
Challenging the status quo—the very essence of SoftBank
Masayoshi Son, upon his return home from study in the United States, founded SOFTBANK Corp. Japan (currently, SoftBank Group Corp.) to launch two businesses: PC software wholesaling and PC magazine publishing. To increase the visibility of his unknown company, Son decided to set up a booth at a large trade show. While the exhibition ended successfully, the company spent its entire initial capital of 10 million yen in just two months. In other words, Son took on the challenge of growing two businesses, staking all his money. This challenge bore fruit, as the PC software wholesaleing business took off. The will to fearlessly embrace challenges and shape the future—the mindset common to the present-day SoftBank—has been passed down since the founding of the company.
The year saw the founding of Yahoo! Inc.; the creation of the World Wide Web Consortium, an international community to standardize web technologies; and the establishment of Amazon.com, Inc. by Jeff Bezos that has been growing to this day. It was a year in which the Internet began growing exponentially, becoming a must-have for everyday life.
The SoftBank Group meets the Internet.
Irrepressible enthusiasm to usher in an Information Revolution
After the stock registration in 1994, Masayoshi Son actively acquired and invested in other entities. Taking note of the emergence of Internet businesses in the United States, he came to firmly believe that the Internet would become the heart of an Information Revolution. Entering the Internet sector, Son succeeded in acquiring Ziff-Davis Publishing Company, America’s PC publication giant, and COMDEX, the world’s largest PC fair, for 230 billion yen and 80 billion yen, respectively. Given that the market capitalization of SoftBank Corp. (currently, SoftBank Group Corp.) was 270 billion yen at the time, these acquisitions meant another challenge on which Son took and staked all his money. Behind his dynamic, speedy decision-making lay his irrepressible enthusiasm to usher in an Information Revolution in Japan.
With the Hotmail free email service launched, the Internet started to be used widely in the United States and elsewhere.
In Japan where word processors were more commonly used than PCs, however, the Internet was not yet an everyday tool, despite more than 10,000 JP domain names already registered.
Yahoo Japan Corporation
founded jointly with Yahoo! Inc.
The beginning of widespread use of the Internet
Having marched into Silicon Valley, Masayoshi Son decided to invest as much as 10 billion yen in Yahoo! Inc., which back then was a small nascent company with only a handful of employees and sales of 10 million yen, recording losses every month. Nevertheless, Son became its main shareholder, staking the future of SoftBank. This was guided by the strong will to transform the world and make people happier by providing an Internet environment that can be easily used whenever, wherever, and with whomever. Together with Yahoo! Inc., SoftBank founded Yahoo Japan Corporation. Dubbed “Yahoo! JAPAN,” the new company began offering an information search service, which would become its primary business. This, combined with other efforts, prompted the use of the Internet to spread rapidly in Japan.
(then SoftBank Corp.)
listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
The number of Internet users in Japan grew to 32,636,000 by the end of February 2001.
This represented an increase of about 13.26 million in just one year, demonstrating the rapid adoption of the Internet in Japan.
Yahoo! BB service launched as Internet usage spreads.
Aiming for the world’s fastest and most affordable broadband service
As Yahoo! Japan’s information search service became popular, it encountered the problem of Japanese internet access being slow and expensive. Propelled by the fear that Japan might left behind in the internet world, Masayoshi Son called on the government to deregulate the communications industry while at the same time deciding to compete head-on against NTT, a telecom giant that virtually monopolized the entire market.
This resulted in the launch of the Yahoo! BB comprehensive broadband service that enabled high-speed Internet access at affordable prices. However, once the service began, the company was inundated with subscription applications, causing subscribers to wait for some time until broadband access was made available in the initial phase. On top of that, the business suffered an annual loss of around 100 billion yen year after year. Yet, driven by the strong will to transform the Japanese communications sector and the wish to make the Internet available to as many people as possible, the company succeeded in providing the world’s fastest and most affordable broadband service at the time.
As the means for Internet access shifted from narrowband to broadband lines, communication speeds increased, leading to the emergence of a whole array of new broadband-based businesses and content. The United States saw the birth of Facebook and Skype (1.0) in 2004 and YouTube the following year. In Japan, meanwhile, social media platforms such as mixi and the Ameba blog were launched, winning instant popularity.
SoftBank ventures into the fixed-line communications market.
Transformation of the SoftBank Group, taking a first step forward as a comprehensive communications carrier
In 2004, SoftBank Corp. (currently, SoftBank Group Corp.) acquired JAPAN TELECOM CO., LTD. (currently, SoftBank Corp.), a carrier strong in fixed-lime telephony and corporate data communications services, for 340 billion yen. As a result, the number of communications lines used by SoftBank subscribers more than doubled, from 4 million to 10 million, rendering the company Japan’s third-largest telecom carrier. In December of the same year, SoftBank launched the Otoku Line direct connection fixed-line voice service. With this service, SoftBank enabled corporate users to reduce communications costs, posing a serious threat to the competition.
It was a year in which SoftBank began transforming itself into a comprehensive communications carrier by acquiring fixed-line networks and corporate data communications services.
(currently, Fukuoka SoftBank HAWKS Corp.)
and the Fukuoka Dome acquired from the Daiei, Inc.
Mobile Internet users grew worldwide. With the popularity of novel services like flat-rate data plans and the One Seg mobile digital TV service, Japan consolidated its position as one of the world’s most advanced mobile markets in terms of service quality. As the mobile phone penetration rate rose, mobile phones with an e-money function, a service dubbed Mobile Suica, went on sale.
SoftBank enters into the mobile communications market.
Aiming for a mobile carrier always one step ahead, with the belief that an era of mobile Internet would come
Masayoshi Son firmly believed that mobile phones would eventually become the main tool for Internet access, bringing in an era of mobile Internet. His belief led to the 2006 acquisition of Vodafone’s Japanese unit (Vodafone K.K.), which marked SoftBank’s full-fledged entry into the mobile communications market. However, as the SoftBank Group just became profitable again after having made losses owing to the broadband business, this acquisition for approximately two trillion yen represented another challenge. In addition, Vodafone K.K. then had a number of problems, including its poor coverage, limited handset lineup, and weak sales channels. To address these, SoftBank announced its Four Commitments,* followed by a series of improvements.
The Four Commitments made to reform Vodafone:
 3G network enhancement
 3G handset enrichment
 Enhancement of content
 Enhancement of sales structure and branding
The 2008 release of the iPhone 3G revolutionized mobile phones worldwide. The iPhone also accelerated the diffusion of mobile Internet, which has grown to one of the key tools that facilitate everyday life. In 2008, Apple Inc. also opened the App Store, a mobile app distribution platform for the iPhone and other Apple devices. It was a year in which global competition among app developers began intensifying.
SoftBank becomes the exclusive Japanese carrier for the iPhone.
The unshaken belief that the iPhone would change the world
Prior to acquiring Vodafone K.K., Masayoshi Son had been searching for a trump card that would make SoftBank’s entry into the mobile communications market a success. Realizing only Apple Inc. cofounder Steve Jobs could create the most effective advantage in the world, Son immediately phoned and went to see him. Upon meeting Jobs, Son asked, “When the development of that product of yours is complete, let me sell it exclusively in Japan.” “Masa, you’re unbelievable,” replied Jobs. “I haven’t told anyone about the development. But, since you’re the first person to come to see me, it’ll be yours.” That was Jobs’s commitment. Once returning to Japan, Son set up an iPhone sales framework by acquiring the mobile carrier Vodafone K.K., succeeding in selling the iPhone 3G exclusively in Japan from 2008.
Son noticed, ahead of anyone else, the foresight Steve Jobs had and the importance of the iPhone as a device to accelerate the Information Revolution itself. These prompted him to make an all-out effort to increase iPhone users in Japan, subsequently triggering the iPhone boom that swept the nation.
With the iPhone spreading and mobile internet rendering everyday life richer and more convenient, Internet giants became too powerful to ignore. For instance, in 2010 Google Inc. considered withdrawing from mainland China due to the Chinese government’s strict online censorship. As shown in this example, Internet giants began to affect even state politics.
To realize its corporate philosophy of “Information Revolution—Happiness for everyone,” the Group unveils the SoftBank Next 30-Year Vision.
Forging ahead with lofty aspirations and the corporate DNA leading SoftBank’s growth in the next 300 years
In 2010, a year marking the 30th anniversary of its founding, the Group unveiled the SoftBank Next 30-Year Vision. It defines how the Group should aim to contribute to people’s happiness through the Information Revolution, and to become the corporate group needed most by people around the world, over the following 30 years. Upon unveiling the vision, Masayoshi Son explained the aspirations held by the company since its founding: “We want to bring joy to and touch the hearts of as many people as possible. Developing outstanding products and acquiring customers to the extent possible through price competition—these are not our ultimate aims. They are just the means for us to contribute to people’s happiness.”
In the SoftBank Next 30-Year Vision, Son committed himself to designing the corporate DNA leading the Group’s growth in the next 300 years at the very least. He expressed his hopes that SoftBank in 300 years’ time would still leverage cutting-edge technologies and superior business models to contribute to people’s happiness by harnessing the unlimited power of information technology.
Facebook, Twitter, LINE, and other apps essential to daily lives took root. The diffusion of these apps provided a tailwind for the growth of mobile markets around the world.
SoftBank aims to be the global No. 1 corporate group.
“Try hard, have fun” values central to making the SoftBank Group global
What the SoftBank Group has aimed for is to be the global No. 1 corporate group. The 2013 acquisition of the US mobile carrier Sprint Nextel Corporation (currently, Sprint Corporation) for around 1.8 trillion yen made the SoftBank Group the world’s third-largest mobile operator in terms of mobile communications sales. Harnessing Sprint Corporation’s network, SoftBank launched an America Flat-Rate service in the following year. This service allows SoftBank subscribers using the service-enabled devices to enjoy voice and data communications in the United States at similar charges to those applied in Japan. Requiring neither an application nor monthly charges (under the special offer), it signified another revolutionary service no other carrier could offer.
became a subsidiary, having completed a share exchange. GungHo Online Entertainment, Inc.
also became a subsidiary.
The Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and smart robots began drawing significant attention as the next-generation growth areas.
Driven by these innovations, the arrival of the next-generation Information Revolution would further enrich people’s lives.
Pepper, the world’s first personal robot with emotions, goes on sale.
Development of a robot with its own emotions
SoftBank Corp.’s Pepper, the world’s first personal robot with its own emotions, went on sale to the public in 2015. Pepper can judge and act autonomously by taking its surroundings into consideration, and can read people’s emotions by analyzing facial expressions and tones of voice. Furthermore, this communication-oriented robot has its own emotions. The 1,000 units of the Pepper consumer model supplied each month sold out for seven months in a row, from June to December 2015.
The development of smart robots like this was propelled by Masayoshi Son’s strong belief that the Information Revolution would make everyone happy by providing the knowledge and capabilities needed to address the issues and problems hitherto unsolvable by humankind. Expecting that smart robots, IoT, and artificial intelligence will all play a central role in the next-generation Information Revolution, SoftBank regards these as its key focus businesses going forward.
The AlphaGo computer program developed by Google DeepMind, a Google Inc.
subsidiary based in Britain, beat the world’s best human Go player in 2016.
This astonished people around the world who had thought that, given go’s complicated rules, it would take longer time for a computer program to beat human players.
Meanwhile, further advances in information technologies started to revolutionize conventional industries, epitomized by intensifying competition over development of self-driving cars as well as the growth of the financial technology, or FinTech, sector. Global tech giants have led the world in an effort to make people’s lives richer and more convenient.
UK’s ARM Holdings plc acquired to prepare for the arrival of the IoT era.
ARM Holdings plc, a key player to support the next paradigm shift in the Information Revolution
In 2016, SoftBank Group Corp. acquired UK-based ARM Holdings plc, the world’s leading designer of key technologies used in semiconductor computer chips. ARM began attracting attention when the iPhone was developed based on the ARM chip. The wider use of smartphones has led to a continued increase in products using ARM-designed chips, making them indispensable to mobile phones used every day by people around the world. The chips that adopt the technologies designed by ARM are characterized by lower power consumption and smaller size. As such, these products are widely expected to underlie the coming full-fledged IoT era, used in every sector and every aspect of life. SoftBank believes that ARM will grow into a key player that supports the next paradigm shift in the Information Revolution.
The year 2017 saw cutting-edge technologies penetrate diverse fields. Smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home hit the market, artificial intelligence finally becoming part of everyday life. With IoT advancing in many sectors, the year can be characterized both as a transition phase in which every industry was redefined, and as an acceleration phase in which new standards were being built.
A mega technology fund launched to accelerate the Information Revolution.
SoftBank Vision Fund launched to support the technology sector with capital amounting to approximately 10 trillion yen
In October 2016, SoftBank announced the establishment of the SoftBank Vision Fund that would invest approximately 10 trillion yen.
The Fund’s investors consist of SoftBank Group Corp.
and the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, both investing several trillion yen, along with multiple leading companies.
Managed by a SoftBank Group Corp.
subsidiary from a global and long-term perspective, the Fund invests in entities, irrespective of size and listing status, in a broad range of technology fields, including, but not limited to: IoT, artificial intelligence, robotics, mobile apps, communications infrastructure, biotechnology, cloud technology, and FinTech.
Since its inception by Masayoshi Son, SoftBank has upheld the corporate philosophy of “Information Revolution—Happiness for everyone.” To live up to this philosophy, the Fund is committed to investing in a broad range of technology fields and managing its assets, by using its well-honed foresight and influence to the full.
listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.