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Microsoft Indonesia Cripples Windows Phone By Blocking Twitter Apps and Other Popular Services

Microsoft is counting on Windows Phone to put it back in the race for mobile computing supremacy and it's relying on partners like Nokia and HTC to deliver the best phones possible to get people to use Windows Phone. It has also pushed developers and companies to make their apps available on the platform. Unfortunately this desire hasn't seemed to reach the minds of the people at Microsoft Indonesia because many significant apps are not available to download in the Indonesian Windows Phone Store.

The Windows Phone Store in Indonesia has been severely lacking in content as a lot of the high profile apps or apps for high profile services are not available to download. A workaround that a lot of people decided to take was to register their phones as if they were in the United States.

Using other countries would have worked too but the US Store has the most complete collection of apps. Not only that, Indonesian credit cards so far are accepted on the US WP Store to purchase apps.

Twitter apps are not welcomed The most significant omission from the Indonesian WP Store is the dearth of Twitter apps. Of all the notable third party apps, only Seesmic, Rowi and Tweetcaster are available. Even the official Twitter app is not available on the Indonesian store.

It makes no sense that Twitter apps are being blocked from the Indonesian WP Store when Microsoft touts Twitter integration to Windows Phone. The built in access to Twitter on Windows Phone is very limited in nature. It's useful for very casual uses but it can't even access direct messages, lists, or manage multiple accounts.

Earlier this year I had spoken to Chris Field, the developer of Mehdoh, one of, if not the best, Twitter apps currently available for Windows Phone. When the Indonesian WP Store was finally opened at the start of 2012, Mehdoh was missing from the store.

Field had noticed my concerns on Twitter and responded. According to him, there were content restrictions that prevented him from making Mehdoh available to the Indonesian store, among other International stores as well. We discussed some specifics of the restrictions and brought up the issue to Microsoft Indonesia to find some sort of resolution to this predicament but there was none available even until today.

Section 3 article 10 of the Windows Phone Content Policy had listed a number of categories which will prevent an app from being made available to three groups of 46 countries. These are as follows:

  • People in revealing clothing or sexually suggestive poses
  • Religious references
  • Alcohol references
  • Sexual or bathroom humor
  • Simulated or actual gambling
  • Disputed territory or region references
  • Enabling access to content or services that are illegal in the country/region

Nearly all of the above are open slather for online services that rely on user generated content or content provided by third parties including social networks and video sites.

Places like Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, IMDb, YouTube, Vimeo, Tumblr, Facebook, Google+, do have content of adult nature whether they like it or not, regardless of their terms of service because aside from IMDb, their primary content is posted by members. IMDb of course is the most comprehensive database of motion pictures of all kinds from all over the world.

Based on the above restrictions, official apps such as Twitter for Windows Phone, Vimeo, IMDb, and WordPress are among those that are not available on the Indonesian Windows Phone Store.

Is Microsoft Indonesia driving consumers to iOS and Android? When these apps are not available to a particular region but are available in other markets, it's usually because of one of these reasons:

  • Service is not available in that region
  • Developers aren't interested or not ready to make their apps available to that region
  • Developers are prevented from making their apps available to that region.

When a service is not available to a particular region, it makes little sense to make the corresponding app available there, but sometimes, due to the complications of licenses, store policies, business decisions, and whatnot, the corresponding apps are made available anyway.

When apps with legitimate purposes such as the ones for services mentioned earlier are blocked from being available in the country, however, you have to wonder whether the people who manage the market place realize that they are harming the reputation of their own product, brand, and vision.

I'm saying that Microsoft Indonesia's insistence to block apps like Twitter, IMDb, Vimeo, Blueprints (Tumblr), and WordPress will negatively affect the public perception of the company and will drive people to keep using iOS or Android devices instead. These are apps for popular and significant online services. Something that a lot of people use. These apps, or their equivalents, are available on iOS and Android.

Microsoft Indonesia is killing Windows Phone 8 before it takes off This supposed cautiousness by Microsoft Indonesia, presumably by the legal department succumbing too far to the overzealous nature of the regulations governing the Indonesian technology landscape, is not doing anybody any favor.

Developers lose out because their apps cannot be purchased or downloaded in Indonesia. Windows Phone users are deprived of the full Windows Phone experience. Microsoft's reputation is tarnished for disallowing such services from the people it's supposed to be nice to when it's meant to be luring people away from Android, iOS, and BlackBerry onto its own platform.

Not only will Microsoft lose out, its hardware partners will also be affected. Microsoft does not make mobile phone hardware, companies like Nokia, HTC, ZTE, and Samsung do. Guess whose bottom line will be affected when consumers found out that Microsoft Indonesia is crippling the abilities of Windows Phone devices?

Sure, most of those services can be accessed using the browser, but applications can deliver a far superior experience. When those apps are not available, instead of reaching for the browser, consumers would instead reach for an Android or iOS device, leaving the Windows Phone behind.

Clearly this is not a situation that Microsoft wants to face. The Windows Phone 8 devices released so far are among the best devices released for any platform and it would be a shame if people are not allowed to take full advantage of the devices that they have acquired.

Microsoft may boast 120 thousand apps on the Windows Phone Store but it's never about the numbers. It's whether people can use Windows Phone in place of iOS, BlackBerry, or Android, not in addition to them. Right now, that's not entirely possible, at least not in Indonesia with a crippled Indonesian Windows Phone Store.

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