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XBox Live and Zune Globalization Issues

wp7-xbl-hands-2010-08-1611-01-22-rm-eng[1]In my previous post, we discussed the issues Microsoft faces in globalizing its Windows Phone 7 “Metro” user experience.
Alas, the globalization of the user experience itself is only part of the story.

An important and particularly compelling part of the Windows Phone user experience are the services Microsoft includes within Windows Phone 7:

 

 

  • XBox Live (online gaming and entertainment)
  • Zune (music and video subscriptions & purchases)
  • Windows Phone Marketplace (try and buy applications for Windows Phone)

 

These services are key differentiators for Windows Phone 7 users - especially XBox Live and Zune - but they bring with them several issues:

Content Distribution Rights

Key among the issues that Microsoft faces are they legalities affecting Microsoft’s ability to offer content (music, games and videos) from various 3rd party content owners (i.e. TV & movie publishers, music labels, games publishers, etc.) to people in different parts of the world.

Make no mistake – this is a minefield.

For example, like Apple’s iTunes service, Microsoft’s Zune music service allows you to buy tracks and albums that you can listen to on your phone, PC, etc.

However, unlike Apple’s iTunes, Microsoft’s Zune allows you to pay a flat fee per month ($15 here in the US) for the right to download and enjoy as much music as you like.

As a Zune customer of many years, I cannot even begin to express just how extraordinarily compelling subscription music is! Not only does this save me AT LEAST $50-$70 per year (vs. the number of CD’s I used to purchase), I am free to explore a MUCH wider spectrum of music than I was able to afford before.

Not only is this a compelling service, but for my $15 per month, I also get to download up to 10 (ten) tracks per month DRM-free for me to keep. Therefore, I pay the equivalent of one CD per month and get to keep a CD’s worth of music from whichever band/album I like, AND I get to listen to as many other albums I want as well.

What’s not to like? Winking smile

BUT … and this is a big but … The content owners get to decide what content they want to offer for subscription and where in the world Microsoft is permitted to rent their content.

Censorship shmenshorship!

Oh … and let’s not forget the issues of content censorship.

In some parts of the world, freedom is something granted by the state (government, ruler, ruling party, etc.). In many parts of the world, consumers choice is constrained by censorship rules defined by the state. Music containing profanity or expressing views the state disagrees with are banned or dubbed. Movies containing non-approved subject-matter, imagery, scenes or dialog are often edited, dubbed or banned. Games that are deemed too violent are only to be sold to users over a certain age (different ages in different countries) or banned outright.

And these rules and regulations change. Frequently.

Remaining compliant with the laws, rules and regulations of each country in which one operates content delivery services such as Zune and XBox Live is a major headache. And this headache is compounded by the issues of content distribution rights discussed above.

Pity the lawyers (yes … seriously!)

One can only imagine the analysis, planning and negotiations that must ensue to allow Microsoft to deployment Zune XBox Live internationally. Armies of lawyers working with legions of program & project managers, developers, testers, translators and other specialists must be employed to work-through these issues. And these are not simple issues to solve.

Considering the above (and my previous post on globalizing Metro), one can understand, if not accept, why Microsoft had to choose to selectively roll-out its services for Windows Phone 7.

If you’re a fan of what Microsoft is building, it sucks to be in a not-currently-supported part of the world, but I am certain that if the market is sufficient in size and the economies work-out, Microsoft will eventually roll out the online services for Windows Phone (and Windows itself) in your region of the world.


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