Marketing and Monetization Interview Series #3. Mik Chernomordikov about Russian Market

380853283Today I’m talking to Mik Chernomordikov, who works for Microsoft Russia and is responsible for a lot of developer related areas. As usual it’s very hard to remember full titles of Microsoft employees, but if I had to introduce Mik in relation to Windows Phone development I’d just say that he is Brandon Watson of Russia. Is this correct?

Actually I even more but don’t tell Brandon about that 🙂 My official title is Client Evangelism Lead in Microsoft Russia – so, we’re with the wonderful team are responsible for our developer efforts on Windows, Windows Phone, HTML5 and Kinect.

But for our external or public actions – currently Windows Phone has maximum focus of course, it was just launched a month ago in Russia.

We’ve heard stories that Windows Phones are selling out in Russia. Is this true or is it just a very limited supply?

We are very very happy about the start of our sales in Russia. Historically people in Russia were very friendly to Windows on their phones. For example, several years ago market share of Windows Mobile was more than 20%!

Today we see the great interest to HTC Mozart start in September. Now HTC already started to offer HTC Radar as well as huge HTC Titan. You can also already make a pre-order for Samsung Omnia W. And it’s only beginning – stay tuned for Nokia news!

Can you give us any specific numbers?

As I told you, I’m responsible for developer efforts, not for sales. So, I’m not the right person to share any numbers.

OK, but give us a rough estimation of the size of the Russian market in terms of software sales. Lets say we all know that Windows 7 sold like half a billion copies. What percentage of that can be attributed to Russia?

I won’t play with you on this speculation game 🙂 As for developer, I would be strongly interested in Russian market right now – because of big potential, really great start and, again, historic data for Russian consumers. So, please don’t forget to select Russia in the App Hub while publishing the app.

Also, you can play on the field which is busy in other markets. For example, now we see not so big competition for Twitter clients in our market. Making great product you can get a lot of share and downloads.

As far as I understand you cover most of the ex-USSR countries too, right? What’s the situation there?

Actually not. I’m responsible solely for Russia. But at the same time we’re working very closely with our colleagues in CIS countries.

Also, last spring we’ve signed a partnership with Softkey to make them Global Publisher for CIS countries. Now developers from all of them can publish their apps through Softkey. By the way, the prices are very good, also while comparing to other Global Publishers in other countries.

How important is it for a regular Russian smartphone buyer that the app is localized into Russian?

I would say that it’s different from apps to games. For games people are absolutely OK to play, for example, Angry Birds in English. Because in casual games almost everything is very easy to understand without words.

As for apps – the importance of localization will be increased a lot. Average knowledge of English language among Russian is not so big comparing to other markets. So, I would expect much more popularity of localized apps.

Is an app in English doomed in the Russian market or is localization just a competitive advantage?

Again – the answer is different from apps to games. All local apps are in Russian. And the number of local apps increasing dramatically after start of sales.

At the same time developers from other countries could be very successful in case of using Russian specifics. For example – author of Freda ebook reader told that nearly 50% of his downloads going to Russian-localized devices – Russian Marketplace providing an unexpected boost for e-reader downloads. That’s because we’re positioned as the most reading nation.

Do most of the people in Russia have credit cards or do you have any operator billing agreements? In other words, is it reasonable to expect that people will buy paid apps?

I would recommend at least to have trial version. Ideally – free version with advertisement. In general, Russian users are not so happy to buy apps. Probably it should be similar with Chinese market. But for games it’s also different. People buy games a lot.

If a developer wants to spread the word about his app to Russian customers where should he or she go? What are the popular Windows Phone related blogs, sites, etc. in Russian?

Well, now there is a set of them – like WP7Rocks.com, WP7Forum.ru, W7Phone.ru, W7Ph.ru and others.

Also they’re more than welcome to contact me directly – http://blogs.msdn.com/b/mikcher/contact.aspx

I’d like to thank Mik for sharing his insights into the Russian market. It seems that there is a huge potential there and developers shouldn’t overlook it.

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