File this under rumors for the time being. According to words on Sina weibo, Chinese Windows Phone users will soon have the blessed privilege to pay for their apps and games in their home currency: Chinese Yuan (CNY).
Windows Phone 7.5 devices were first launched in China back in March, with half done localization: the user interface was fully translated, but the People Hub was stripped down to a simple contact book without much social function, Xbox Live completely axed, and users were billed in US dollars for stuff in the Marketplace.
The last bit has been a serious problem. Unlike western countries, credit cards are not so big in China. Instead, most people feel comfortable with a basic bank saving account plus online banking service. Payment in CNY will push the localization of Windows Phone in China forward by one great leap. Apple has done so ages ago for the App Store. Android is one giant mess with hundreds of third-party app stores fighting one another, but payment in local currency is generally not a problem. Microsoft has to play this card right to catch up with its competitors.
As of now, users are reporting the app prices in Chinese Marketplace are still shown in USD. Hopefully the CNY revolution will roll out sooner rather than later. Apparently developers who has products in the Chinese Marketplace won’t have to do a thing. The price conversion will be done automatically, without any impact on user experience.
MSN China is supposed to be in charge of the currency localization move. As noted by WPDang, MSN China (50%/50% joint venture between Microsoft and a Chinese partner) will take complete control over the Chinese facet of the Marketplace (or Windows Phone Store) in 2012 Q4. These guys will have the final say in pretty much everything related to China, including manipulating the top app list, and publishing apps under the MSN China brand.
For a side note, MSN China has an embarrassing track record in practically everything it runs so far:
- Portal website: The primary business of MSN China, lagging far behind China’s “Four Big Portals” (Sina, Net Ease, QQ, Sohu).
- Instant messaging: From 2005 to 2012, the market share of Live Messenger in China has successfully fallen from 10.58% (quite good for initial entry) to 4.95% (haha) under great leadership.
- Search engine: While we don’t have exact figures, but the Chinese version of Bing is lagging lightyears behind its American sibling in terms of functions and features. If you try it out (cn.bing.com), you will find it calls up all sorts of memories dating all the way back to the days when Bing was first launched internationally. Yes, Bing (Chinese), the search engine for time travellers.
- e-Commerce: MSN China started a shopping site in 2009, hoping to get a slice of cake in China’s prospering e-commerce sector. The site was finally shut down in November 2011 for lack of user interest.
Despite everything, we sincerely wish MSN China does the Marketplace job right. This will be utterly important, because the Chinese Windows Phone 8 launch is supposed to happen very soon after the switch of leadership.