Xbox Globalization

Here is an interesting Q&A with Peter Moore, global marketing chief of Microsoft’s Xbox. They have offered a subscription-based, online Xbox service for a couple years now and we find that Microsoft now offers the service in 24 countries and has over a million subscribers. Not too shabby.

Here the most relevant excerpt from the interview:

We are trying now to globalize our marketing message, something that has never been done in our industry before. Typically, the marketing message has been regional, if not local. Now we have this incredible vehicle called Xbox Live, which gives us the opportunity to speak with one voice to a consumer, whether in Beijing, Bangkok, or Barcelona.

.. Certainly soccer was one area we felt required no translation, no real localization and no explanation of the rules. It crosses all boundaries, all continents, and the ability for someone to play a game against somebody else 5,000 miles away — the identical game and they both totally understand what’s going on — it’s an incredible experience. Having already done it myself — it blows me away.

So, that and some other media deals that we haven’t announced yet are great examples of the things that we’re trying to do to globalize our message so that when you get off a plane anywhere in the world you feel that Xbox has the same positioning, the same statement to the consumer, and stands for the same things. Typical to our industry, it’s been very, very regionalizing. You can even see different taglines depending on which continent you’re on.

You’ve hit a little rough patch in Japan. Why is that?
Well, we’ve issued mea culpas weekly. I was just there two weeks ago giving my latest mea culpa. We made some fundamental errors — which we’re very cognizant of, and don’t hide behind — on some industrial design and some content strategy. As a result, we got off to a very rough start, and the Japanese market is somewhat unforgiving. They are very, very quality-focused consumers — perhaps the most quality-focused in the world — particularly in regard to consumer electronics.

Our launch was less than stellar in the areas I’ve just mentioned, and it’s difficult to recover. However, we’ve been doing a tremendous amount of work to make sure that when the next generation arrives, that Japan is a very, very important part of the next generation for us. I can guarantee we won’t make the same mistakes the second time around. We’re a company that’s pretty good at getting it right, if not the first time, certainly the second time.

    Googling China

    The search engine war in China has long been heated, but Yahoo! recently upped the stakes with the launch of a new search portal: www.yisou.com.

    yahoo_china_yisou.jpg

    It sure looks a lot like Google’s search portal, underscoring the dramatic success Google has enjoyed in this market over the past few years.

    Consider these impressive stats from The Miami Herald:

    China is currently second to the United States in Internet users (at 80 million in 2003 compared to our 185 million) but will surpass the United States within five years, according to Forbes Global. On any given day, nine of the world’s 25 busiest websites are situated in China. Yahoo! and eBay are coming on strong in competition with locally entrenched portals. Even without China-based offices, Google attracts 40 percent of China’s search users.

    Clearly, the search portal that wins in China will have the lead in users globally. While Google has the lead today, I suspect that an entirely new search engine, likely based in China itself, may be that leader five years from now.

    Chinese Hoops

    According to a recent press release, last year more than 15 NBA teams incorporated Asian American marketing efforts into their overall marketing plans. And the timing isn’t due just to Yao; today, there are three Chinese players in the NBA: Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, Wang Zhizhi of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mengke Bateer of the Toronto Raptors.

    There are more than 2.4 million Chinese residents in the U.S. And the NBA needs all the fans it can get these days. Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

    “The timing is perfect for the NBA to take this important step in reaching out to the Chinese population in the United States,” said Saul Gitlin, executive vice president-strategic services at Kang & Lee Advertising. “Not only are Chinese the largest Asian group in the country, but they have an unusually high level of education and boast a median household income of $51,444 – almost $10,000 ahead of the median for all households in the country. The intense passion for basketball within the Chinese community presents many opportunities for the NBA.”

    The NBA has also done a fine job of marketing itself globally. Jordan wasn’t the world’s most popular athlete by chance. The NBA had been pumping game highlights globally during most of his reign. And now, the NBA is awakening to Web globalization…

    nba_china.gif

    The NBA has enjoyed tremendous popularity in China. During the 2002-03 season, a record 14 telecasters televised NBA games and programs in China, with NBA programming reaching a total of 314 million TV households. The league also launched NBA.com/china, a comprehensive internet destination, written entirely in Chinese.

    ICANN Goes Global — Gradually

    Since its inception, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has been criticized for favoring the U.S. over other countries. But with a new president in office, Australian Paul Twomey — the first non-U.S. citizen to be president — ICANN is promising a more global outlook.

    Two weeks ago, ICANN took a big step towards making internationalized domain names (IDNs) — also known as multilingual domain names — a reality. Here are what IDNs look like:

    idn_verisign.jpg

    An IDN allows a person or organization to register a domain name in any major language — from Chinese to Russian to Arabic. More important, IDNs allow non-English speakers to navigate the Internet without inputting all Roman characters for every address. While the underlying DNS will continue to rely on a subset of ASCII, the IETF has devised a way to overlay IDNs using the Unicode character set. It’s an imperfect solution, and not all techs are happy with it. For starters, the domain name is the only part of the URL that is allowed to use non-Roman characters — that is, “.com” will remain. Still, it’s a start.

    On March 13th, ICANN issued the Standards for ICANN Authorization of Internationalized Domain Name Registrations in Registries with Agreements. These standards formalize four mandatory rules and two recommended rules that registries must follow in order to issue IDNs. Here they are:

    Rules:

    1. Top-level domain registries that implement internationalized domain name capabilities must do so only in strict compliance with all applicable technical standards.

    2. In implementing IDNA, top-level domain registries must employ an “inclusion-based” approach for identifying permissible code points from among the full Unicode repertoire, and, at the very least, must not include (a) line symbol-drawing characters, (b) symbols and icons that are neither alphabetic nor ideographic language characters, such as typographical and pictographic dingbats, (c) punctuation characters, and (d) spacing characters.

    3. In implementing IDNA, top-level domain registries must (a) associate each registered domain name with one or more languages, (b) employ language-specific registration and administration rules that are documented and publicly available, such as the reservation of all domain names with equivalent character variants in the languages associated with the registered domain name, and (c) where the registration and administration rules depend on a character variants table, allow registrations in a particular language only when a character variants table for that language is available.

    4. Registries must commit to working collaboratively through the IDN Registry Implementation Committee to develop character variants tables and language-specific registration policies, with the objective of achieving consistent approaches to IDN implementation for the benefit of DNS users worldwide.

    Recommendations:

    5. In implementing IDNA, top-level domain registries should, at least initially, limit any given domain label (such as a second-level domain name) to the characters associated with one language only.

    6. Top-level domain registries (and registrars) should provide customer service capabilities in all languages for which they offer internationalized domain name registrations.

    Verisign Does Not Approve

    IDNs have not evolved in a vacuum. For the past couple years Verisign (and other registries) have developed commercial products for registering IDNs and for making them work in existing browsers. Versign naturally sees signficant revenues in opening the doors to so many additional domain names. But it’s not at all pleased with ICANN’s new rules. Here is what Verisign had to say recently. It remains to be seen how closely Verisign and other registries abide by ICANN’s rules and recommendations.

    What Next?

    I believe that IDNs are going to become a fact of life on the Internet. The only significant growth of Internet users is coming from non-English-speaking countries, such as China, Korea, Russia, and the Arab Middle East. These people want to register the names of their companies in their native languages. I realize that making IDNs work on a global scale will be difficult and possbily danger to the DNS as a whole — but I also believe we need to move forward. The benefits of multilingual domain names far outweigh the risks of doing nothing at all.

    The Globalization of Google

    Amy Campbell alerted me to a very interesting graphic on the Google Zeitgeist page. It tracks the languages used to access Google over the past two years:

    google_lang.gif

    Google handles more than 200 million queries a day from around the world. Increasingly, these queries are not in English. Over the past few years, Google has aggressively localized its search engine for more than 60 languages. These language-specific search engines are very important to Google’s continued growth, since the majority of new Internet users are not native-English speakers.

    Keep a close eye on that tiny purple streak representing Chinese; it’s sure to expand. While there are only about 100 million German speakers in the world, there are well over a billion Chinese speakers. Also expect to see Arabic (200 million speakers) make an entrance in a few years.

    Google began in 1998 as an English-language search engine. My, how times — and the Internet — have changed. And, if you’re interested, Google is looking for an International Webmaster.