It has been over a week since Microsoft announced the availability of the Windows Phone Marketplace to China. It sounds exciting, especially to the Chinese, who have been entirely living on smuggled WP7 devices since October 2010. Localization stuff aside, paying for apps had been massive pain in the [beep] to most of Chinese WP7 adopters, since Microsoft usually takes nothing but credit cards, and credit cards are far from a household item in China. Plus, the fact that Windows Phone Marketplace server has been DNS-hijacked by China’s national Great Firewall adds more salt to the wound.
So, everyone, including me, has been expecting more Chinese-friendly payment methods and easier access, right? Apparently we are all wrong.
Right now Chinese Marketplace has been given a web access here. However, I’ve been told by sources that it doesn’t work on an actual device. If you sign into a Windows Phone with a Zune account flagged “China” in the “Country” field, you will get not apps, but a pop up saying the Marketplace is not available to your region. My own account has been disguised as a US account, so I can’t personally test it. Correct me if my source got it wrong.
Then, obviously when you open that web portal, the first thing you will notice (not even needing any Chinese-reading ability) is that all Xbox Live titles are gone. Wiped out. Clean cut. Not a single title left, not even the free ones like Flowerz, Shuffle Party, Sudoku and Minesweeper. Considering previous rumor that Xbox Live will be replaced by QQ Game Hall and the fact that Xbox Live (as well as Xbox 360) are illegal stuff in China, let’s say we can let go of this problem. And… even if QQ Game Hall is to take over the gap left by Xbox Live, I’m not seeing the local alternative in this ripped off Marketplace either.
But there are still more evidences that the Marketplace is opened to the Chinese before it’s even ready. For example:
The “New” at the top of Marketplace quick view has been translated into “新”, which is technically correct if you are a dictionary instead of a human being. It simply doesn’t fit into how Chinese read or speak in such a crude form. Maybe Microsoft put it through some kind of translation software, or their localization team didn’t bother with proper testing.
If you think one small flaw is OK, there’s more:
Category list of applications. “Lifestyle” has been translated into “人生百味”, which actually means “all the highs and lows of life”. Yeah there’s “life”, but I don’t find the rest bearing much resemblance to “style”?
And as if two bad translations aren’t bad enough, here’s the game category list:
Strings gloriously left untranslated. Funniest is the “xbox companion” genre. You thought if Xbox Live has been ripped off, this genre will be removed too, right? Apparently not. But when you click in, what you see is ultimate blankness. In the localization process they got rid of the tricky apps but left the genre.
And the worst of all would be this:
Paid apps in the CHINESE Marketplace is still being charged in United States Dollars instead of Chinese Yuan. As mentioned before, the general lack of credit cards among Chinese consumers has always been a big problem. Like 95% of us pay our online shopping with: A) bank saving cards with online banking service; B) cash on delivery; C) AliPay, a third-party payment gateway like PayPal, only several times more popular in China; D) pay with carrier phone bill. Microsoft hasn’t solved the fundamental problem at all.
I’m wondering what took Microsoft so long to bring the Marketplace to the Central Kingdom. Our developers were first allowed to submit apps back when Mango launched, and normal dudes got the pass a few days ago. In that BIG gap, what did Microsoft actually do? Getting a business license (not so hard) from Chinese government and did some lousy translation? That brings a whole new meaning to “efficiency”.
HTC is already taking Titan pre-orders in China, shipping on uncertain date. Meanwhile, China Telecom will launch up to 3 Lumia devices through the March-April time frame. Everything here is well in motion. Hopefully Microsoft could get its infrastructure sorted out before any major screw-up.