Having watched the series of new Bing ads for WP7.5, also detailed in Micheal Stroh’s post in Windows Phone Blog , I decided to try out the goodies available in India on my Windows Phone. After All, built in search functionality was the one feature I could proudly show off to my less fortunate iPhone and Android owners. I was already aware that Music Search and Local Scout is not (yet?) available in India but Bing Vision was high on my wish list. I touched the Bing Button and was delighted to see the icons for Vision and Voice Search appear at the bottom of the screen. I clicked on the “Eye” and aligned the camera on the bar-code of the Otterbox Commuter Series DVP case lying nearby. Nothing happened!!! Instead, it said “Nothing Found – try searching with text or voice”. I tried with every other thing which had a bar-code – nothing! Books – Nothing, CDs/DVDs – NOTHING. If you think I was crestfallen, you’d be grossly underestimating. I fired off a tweet to @WinPhoneSupport and also a comment on Michael Stroh’s blog looking for answers. But they didn’t know. WinPhoneSupport was positive that I should be able to scan everything as advertised. When I told them that on starting Bing Vision, it offers to scan only QR Codes and Microsoft Tags, they had to say this
Surprise surprise, even Microsoft doesn’t know which Microsoft features are region specific. Or are we surprised at that anymore? Then Sushovan De, my fellow contributor at WP Sauce, suggested that I change the locale on my phone to English(US) and try again. Nothing happened when I changed Region Format or System Locale, but when I changed my ‘Browser & Search Language’ to English(US), suddenly I had the entire suite of Bing Vision features – bar-codes, QR Codes, MS Tags, Books, CDs, DVDs. I even had Local Scout!! I tried a few more languages and drew different results, soon realising the huge disparity in Bing Services available around the world.
There are five levels of Bing Services and the locations/languages which have access to these levels are detailed below :
The Full Bing Suite – This is the top dog. You get everything – Voice Search, Vision, Local Scout and Bing Audio(though I cannot get it on my phone no matter what I change). Bing Vision is also fully featured and you can scan QR Codes, MS Tags, bar-codes (only UPC), books, CDs & DVDs and also text which can be translated. For getting this level of access you have to be an English speaker in the US. No Sir, Canada or UK don’t have it, and neither do Spanish speakers in the US.
Local Scout, Limited Bing Vision and Voice Search – In this level of Bing access, you can scan ONLY Microsoft Tags and QR Codes in Bing Vision apart from text/translation. The supported languages/countries are just English (Australia & UK) and French (France).
Limited Bing Vision and Voice Search – No Local Scout and only QR Codes/MS Tags and text/translation in Bing Vision. Supported languages are Chinese (Hong Kong, Mainland China & Taiwan), Danish, Dutch (Belgium & Holland), English (Canada, India, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore & South Africa), Finnish, French (Belgium, Canada & Switzerland), German (Germany & Switzerland), Italian (Italy), Japanese, Norwegian (Bokmal), Portuguese (Brazil & Portugal), Russian, Spanish (Argentina, Mexico, Spain & US) and Swedish (Sweden).
Voice Search Only – Just the Bing app with Voice Search and no additional services. Available for Afrikaans, Chinese (Singapore), Croatian, English (Belize, Caribbean & Zimbabwe), Galician, Greek, Italian (Switzerland), Kiswahili, Romanian, Serbian (Cyrillic – Monte Negro), Spanish (Uruguay) and Tatar.
No Bing App – Yes, the rest of the world does not even have a Bing app. If you were to own a Windows Phone here, the default Bing Button would open the Bing web page in the browser. The supported, uhh… unsupported languages are Albanian, Azeri (Cyrillic & Latin), Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Macao), Czech, English (Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago), Estonian, Faroese, Filipino, French (Luxembourg & Monaco), German (Austria, Liechtenstein & Luxembourg), Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Mongolian, Norwegian (Nynorsk), Polish, Serbian (Cyrillic & Latin), Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish (Entire Latin and South America except Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay), Swedish (Finland), Turkish, Ukrainian and Uzbek (Cyrillic & Latin)
Please remember that all the above listed languages are supported in WP 7.5 codenamed Mango. There are scores of other languages like Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Thai etc which are not even supported in Windows Phones yet. But the most perplexing issue for me is the reason for this selective treatment and I fail to understand why Microsoft has done so. Nothing stops me from changing my search language to English(US). And I get no special benefits by selecting English(India) anyway. Microsoft Tellme doesn’t understand my accent and consistently returns results for ‘Admin Folder’ when I ask for Windows Phones and ‘Eurosport Winter’, when I ask for US Open – no matter if I have selected English in India, UK, USA, Singapore or Spanish in Guatemala. However, one thing is for sure. Microsoft’s penchant for Region Specific services is beginning to border on the ridiculous. So much so for their global ambitions.
Image courtesy – Vietbao.com & Twitter.