Windows Phone around the world: Language support in Mango

“When will Windows Phone support my language?”

In some form, it’s a question I hear nearly every day. As a member of the phone’s international engineering team, it’s my job (and passion) to help make Windows Phone speak more languages and work in more places around the world.

Today I want to provide a big-picture overview of our language plans for Windows Phone in Mango—something that we haven’t detailed in one place before. We get a lot of questions, and I hope this helps clear up any uncertainty about what to expect this fall when Mango is released—now here come the lists!

How do you say Windows Phone in Greek?

One of the things I love about my job is that I get to work on so many different parts of the phone. Translating all the words you see on the screen—the user interface— is just one part of making a more cosmopolitan smartphone. It also requires a great on-screen keyboard, beautiful fonts that render text crisply on a small screen, and the expansion to new markets of key companion services like Marketplace and Xbox LIVE.

Although we still have a long way to go, Mango represents a sizeable step forward. At launch last year we supported 5 display languages: English (US and UK), French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

In Mango, we’re adding 17 more: Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian (Bokmål), Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish.

The Zune software will be available for the same set of languages.

I want to stress that you might not see all these display languages listed as options on your phone. The exact display options depend on your handset manufacturer and mobile operator.

Why doesn’t the phone just come with the entire set of display languages? For one, they take up a significant amount of space, leaving less room for music, pictures, and other content. Also, an operator may not be able to support a particular language. For example, an operator in Norway might not feel comfortable supporting a phone with Hungarian. That said, many phones likely will have multiple display languages installed.

Displaying some of these new languages required new phone fonts. Specifically, we’ve added 4 beautiful new fonts for the East Asian languages:

Language

Font

Style

Simplified Chinese

DengXian

regular, bold

Traditional Chinese

Microsoft MHei

regular, bold

Japanese

Yu Gothic

regular, bold

Korean

Microsoft NeoGothic

regular, bold

These fonts come with the display language, so they’re only available if that language is present on your device. In addition, Mango now includes the Segoe UI Symbol font, which includes emoticons (Emoji), the new Indian rupee currency sign, and other useful symbols.

Touch typing in Turkish

Moving from output to input, Mango also expands the set of languages you can type using the on-screen keyboard.

The 20 new keyboard options are: Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, and Ukrainian.

The keyboard languages shown in italics also support text prediction, which makes typing on your phone faster and easier. Even better, all these input languages are available on any Windows Phone, regardless of which display languages come with it.

The new East Asian keyboards—which were developed in Asia by the same team that creates them for Windows and Office—are especially neat. We’ll explore them in more detail in a future post.

A view of the Start screen in Finnish, one of the 17 new display languages coming in Mango for Windows PhoneWe’ve also created new keyboards for typing in East Asian languages such as Japanese.

A view of the Start screen in Finnish (left), one of the 17 new display languages coming in Mango for Windows Phone. We’ve also created new keyboards for typing in East Asian languages such as Japanese (right).

Buying apps and playing games

I know many of you also want to know about our global rollout plans for services like Marketplace and Xbox LIVE.

As we announced last month, starting this fall you’ll be able to buy apps from Windows Phone Marketplace in 35 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. (The specifics of how you buy an app and which apps are available in Marketplace do vary by country.)

This fall you’ll see a significant increase in the number of new countries where the Xbox LIVE service for Windows Phone is available. The Zune Marketplace for music, video, and podcasts is also expanding to more markets. We’re not quite ready to announce specifics just yet—expect to hear more later this summer.

Finally, we get many questions about specific phone features—especially ones related to searching and mapping— and where they’ll be available. Here’s a list of ones we hear about most:

  • Bing search (accessed from the phone’s hardware Search button) is available in 33 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. (Elsewhere, handset and mobile operators can configure the hardware search button to a locally-relevant search site).
  • Local search results show up in 6 countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Maps is supported in 19 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Voice-to-text and Voice-to-dial is available in 6 countries: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, and the Unites States.
  • Voice search is supported in 4 countries: France, Germany, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The future

While I hope you’ll agree that Mango is a step forward, I’m all too aware that there’s still much to do. Two areas we’re working hard to address in future releases are languages with complex scripts and extending services to more markets. Let me briefly explain.

Complex scripts are used to write languages such as Arabic and Hindi, where the displayed character depends on its neighbor (“contextual shaping”), and languages written right-to-left such as Hebrew and Urdu. Many of the controls used in Windows Phone require enhancement to properly display such scripts.

You’ll see the first fruit of this work in Mango: text messages will render properly in Arabic and Hebrew. Clever programmers can also create apps in some of these languages. But Internet Explorer Mobile, email, and the copy and paste feature can still become confused by complex scripts in Mango. The good news is we understand the problem and know what needs to be done.

Extending services such as Marketplace or Xbox LIVE to more markets, on the other hand, is a very different type of challenge—as much legal and organizational as it is technical. But we’re working hard to scale up our engineering effort from a couple dozen countries to the entire world.

I hope to write about both challenges, and how we’re addressing them, in future blog entries. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think.

John McConnell, Principal Program Manager, Windows Phone Engineering