NTT Docomo, Japan’s biggest mobile operator, will next month launch an i-mode version of Docomo Market, its existing mobile portal for smartphone users. The new version of the portal, which launches on 6 December, will offer a range of apps, music and e-books for the 48 million users who are equipped with i-mode-enabled handsets. The original version of Docomo Market, targeted at smartphone users, launched in April this year.

This summer Docomo CEO Ryuji Yamada told the Financial Times about the operator’s plans to open up the portal, which was seen as a loosening of control over the apps and services which can be accessed by users of the i-mode mobile data service. The new version of Docomo Market offers access to a more open content environment. The operator’s change of approach was seen as a response to the success enjoyed by rival SoftBank with Apple’s iPhone.

The new i-mode Docomo Market will initially offer users a choice of about 1,200 apps. It is accessible via PCs as well as most i-mode handsets.  Music in the i-mode-enabled portal will be co-managed with RecoChoku, a mobile music retailer in Japan, and will offer about one million songs and videos at launch. The market’s bookstore will offer a range of popular manga, novels and how-to books.