ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

International Windows Phone 7 App Marketplace Petition

12/22/2010 1:28:00 PM

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a fan of petitions, “calling your representative” and things like that. Yet I can’t understand the current state of Windows Phone 7 experience around the World. The more or less full experience (minus differences in access to Music & Video) is available in 17 countries. At the same time phones are sold in way more than those 17 countries.

Last time I raised this issue the phones weren’t officially available over here in Lithuania. Now I can go into official stores of 2 cell operators in Lithuania and walk out with one of the 2 available HTC models.

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At the same time when I launch Zune Software on my Windows 7 with current location set to Lithuania here’s what I see:

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Notice that the Marketplace tab is missing. It takes switching location to United States (or other supported region)

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to see that tab

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Unfortunately even after this we can only access the free apps and trials because it wouldn’t accept our credit cards.

Some might say we are lucky that we can see free apps in the marketplace on our phones (I’m still not sure if this is the case without any tricks but it could be). People in other countries can’t do even that:

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The worst part of all of this is that there’s no official information on the problems Microsoft is facing with allowing access to the marketplace in countries other than those 17 lucky ones. And unfortunately for Microsoft not many people can come up with a reasonable guess as to what these problems might be.

I’ve heard (and thought of) only 2 reasons:

Guess #1. Localization. Microsoft wants to localize the marketplace into local languages before launching it in new markets.

Here’s why this doesn’t make much sense: There’s no Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, etc. UI in the Windows Phone 7 OS itself, yet the phones are available in Lithuania, Norway, Poland, etc. So absence of localization doesn’t stop them from selling the phones, but stops from providing access to the marketplace? Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Guess #2. Taxes. Apparently Microsoft needs to deal with tax differences and similar stuff.

I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure that once you’ve dealt with taxes in one European Union country you can cover all of the EU from there without any substantial overhead. We have 8 EU countries covered by the marketplace (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom). Where are the other 19? And I’m not talking about new members. Where’s Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden, etc.? Looking at the list it seems obvious that selection was made by language rather than anything else. But we’ve covered that above.

Any other guesses? And why do we have to guess? Why is it difficult for Microsoft to come up with an explanation and a roadmap? What’s the point in silence in this case?

Who wins here? Consumers can’t access the marketplace – bad. Developers and Microsoft can’t sell apps to these consumers – bad. And the worst part that there are no explainable obstacles responsible for that. I’m not saying there aren’t any for sure, I’m just asking to let us know if there are.

A week ago I’ve shown my LG Optimus 7 to a non-technical friend. He asked me if I can recommend him buying a WP7 phone. And honestly, being a Windows Phone fan myself, I couldn’t. I don’t want my friend to be mad at me for having to go through hoops just to get some apps on his smartphone. I will recommend the phone once this is resolved, I will highlight it’s great novel UI and try to justify some deficiencies in order to convince my peers, but I can’t do that right now.

So when I saw another desperate cry of frustration with this situation on Twitter, I’ve snapped and decided to create a petition. Here it is:

International Windows Phone 7 App Marketplace Petition

If you agree with what’s written there and in this blog post, please, take a few seconds to sign the petition and spread the word. Maybe this way Microsoft will hear us and shine some light on the situation or better yet just flip the switch.

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