China

For those who travel around the world, Bing Translator is an indispensable app for not feeling lost amongst the crowd. The useful app is perfect for translating foreign text to your native tongue, either by typing, scanning the text with your camera or speaking directly into the app.

Today, version 3.0 of Bing Translator is now available, and although it is a big version-number update, the changes in the app itself are singular: Voice translation for Chinese.

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Microsoft's Cortana is currently limited to only those in the United States, but the team behind the personal assistant are working hard to quickly bring it to other regions. Top on that list is the UK and China, two regions that are officially getting Cortana soon. Cortana was originally teased as coming in July, but Microsoft later backtracked on that as the date was pushed back.

Now, Marcus Ash, Group Program Manager of Cortana, has responded to a user's question about the UK, noting "Barring an unforeseen issue, down to less than 2 weeks for the developer preview." This is certainly good news, as many in the UK can finally take advantage of a proper regionalized Cortana, including metric and Celsius data. As to the reason for the delay, Ash explains that he and his team have "…learned a lot about scaling. Now we need to finish" observing that it has been a "tough project".

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Before the formal debut which is planned for September this year, Microsoft and its Chinese joint-venture partner BesTV just brought the Chinese version of Xbox One to China International Cartoon & Game Expo (July 10 - 14, in Shanghai), for a brief demonstration. A quite lengthy commercial for the console was revealed, highlighting the Chinese Xbox One's, um, for lack of better words, let's say "highly localized functionality and marketing strategy".

Here is the video itself, in Chinese, for your enjoyment. There are English subtitles, but sadly they are blocked by all those human heads. I'll try to explain what exactly happened in the video below.

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Microsoft will be the icebreaker in China’s previously prohibited video game industry with the introduction of the Chinese Xbox One later this year. We have voiced our concerns about that bizarre adventure, like pricing, and the rigid content censorship for game software. The ridiculously high price might be a placeholder, but the frustration on the game content front seems to be very true.

As we have mentioned earlier, the problem of China as a game market is that there are no rules to follow. The country doesn’t have a game rating system like the ESRB. Every game is to be reviewed separately by multiple government organs, led by the Ministry of Culture. In this process a game could be condemned improper, harmful, or politically incorrect, and banned for all sorts of reasons.

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Ever since Microsoft removed the licensing fee for the Windows Phone operating system, we have seen a healthy number of new OEMs joining the ecosystem in a pretty short time. Now Hisense, a relatively low profile Chinese smartphone maker that previously has been focusing on Android, is about to announce their first ever Windows Phone device on June 26. That is the 26th day of June in China, which means by the time you are reading this story, the device would have already been unveiled, and our follow-up story will be almost ready.

News of such an announcement by Hisense came yesterday, though we have more details to add to the story today.

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Microsoft’s Cortana is certainly a work in progress, even here in the US where it’s officially available. China and the UK are on the immediate horizon for rollouts, with other regions to follow soon. With all of that work ahead, it makes sense that the Cortana team will want to have a regular update schedule, and much like the Xbox Music app, it looks to be bi-monthly.

In an interview over at Engadget with the Cortana team, updates to the Cortana system will evidently happen twice a month with the possibility for off-cycle updates “for things that are timely, urgent or especially badass." The ability to update Cortana dynamically will ensure that her chitchat (small conversations pieces, voiced by Jen Taylor), will be current and relevant, reflecting any significant cultural happenings.

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Windows Phone and Android have a lot in common. Both are competing for second place in app revenue against the juggernaut that is Apple, and both types of handsets/tablets are more affordable than iOS devices. Although Android has a leg up over Windows Phone worldwide, Microsoft’s mobile platform has a great opportunity to surpass Android in a number of emerging markets like China and Brazil.

There are many factors at play in the ongoing mobile battle between Microsoft and Google. To get a better idea of how each side stacks up, we spoke with Martin Koppel, COO at mobile payment specialist Fortumo. If Martin’s predictions are correct, Windows Phone’s continued growth in developing markets will soon put it on much more even footing with Google’s mobile OS.

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Windows Phone 8.1 is technically out now with the Lumia 630 slowly hitting markets, but its personal assistant Cortana is on a longer release schedule. According to a new report, Microsoft is evidently hard at work to regionalize the service, making it more useful for those outside of the US. LiveSide is reporting that Cortana – enabled through a region hack on Windows Phone 8.1 devices – has some unique offerings for those in China.

Users who have a Windows Phone 8.1 device (or the Preview for Developers) don’t need to do anything besides to the region hack to enable Cortana in China.

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The Nokia Lumia 636, bearing the model number RM-1010, has passed through certification in China. If you're not familiar with the Lumia 636, it's essentially the TD-LTE version of the Lumia 635. It's also worth noting that this will mark the very first TD-LTE Windows Phone from Nokia (now Microsoft after the acquisition of Nokia's devices division).

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As expected, Microsoft  just formally announced Xbox One for the Chinese market in Shanghai. You could call this an event of historical significance, because game consoles have been banned indifferently in China for the past 14 years. Xbox One is the first to break the ice, now that the ban has sort of loosened a bit.

Unlike product launch elsewhere, Microsoft is navigating through a tricky situation to bring Xbox One to China. Firstly, the Chinese government’s ban on game consoles isn’t really lifted yet. The country just created a Free Trade Zone in Shanghai (“SFTZ” for short), where enterprises enjoy more freedom in business. It’s within this specific zone that the ban is loosened. Microsoft has formed a subsidiary within SFTZ, in joint-venture with its Chinese partner BesTV, an IPTV content provider. The subsidiary’s special SFTZ status supposedly allows it to sell Xbox One to the rest of the country.

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A handful of months ago we learned that Microsoft was preparing to enter the Xbox One into the Chinese market by September 2014. Consoles have been banned in China since the early 2000s, but that ban was lifted last September by the Chinese government. It looks like the Xbox One might be the first console to hit China when it’s expected to go on sale later this year.  

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Concerns over Microsoft's purchase of Nokia have been highlighted in some regions, including China and Korea. The former country has since approved the deal with the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China giving the green light. While the deal itself has been subject to regulatory and other customary approvals, some competitors have voiced concerns over the strengthening position Microsoft will have patents-wise.

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Nokia X sold out in China within minutes

Previously we covered the story about Nokia China racking up extremely high pre-order numbers in a dubious method. By the end of this week, the total number of pre-order (at no cost at all, up to 3 units for each registered user, with a chance to win a free phone) reached 10 million.

The actual sales of Nokia X commenced on Chinese e-commerce platform JD.com on 10:00 am of March 24 (Beijing time). Everyone with a pre-order has two options: either to make the payment and seal the deal, or to forfeit the pre-order and forget about it. Didn't even make a pre-order? Well, you will be served last then, if there's any chance left.

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Nokia's brand new Android-based smartphone "X" has been gaining amazing momentum in China, at least it looks so on paper. On March 10, Nokia started a pre-order campaign on JD.com, one of China's leading online vendors. Within 4 days, over 1 million units were pre-ordered through the platform. Earlier today Nokia China made an announcement with updated numbers, pushing the total count to a whopping 3.8 million.

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Google and Samsung have joined Chinese mobile phone manufacturers in expressing concerns to Chinese courts about Microsoft's purchase of Nokia. Redmond is set to absorb Nokia's phone business for 7.2 billion dollars, integrating the division responsible for Lumia, Asha and X device families. The reasons behind this move are fears that the deal will result in higher patent licensing costs.

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