Interview: Microsoft leads in localisation
Dubai, September 8, 2008
Localisation or Arabisation of software and interfaces is key to the spread of information technology in the region and software giant Microsoft is playing a major role in this in the Arab World.
Most of Microsoft’s products are now available with Arabic support and this has had a tremendous influence in popularising not only the products, but also in the creation of various solutions based on these products, benefiting the common man, who otherwise would have been left out of the IT revolution.
Microsoft is investing quite a lot of time, money and effort in launching localised products that help non-English users to experience the opportunities created by new technologies, says Assem Abdullah Hijazi, localisation manager, Arabic Language Product Support, Microsoft Middle East and Africa, in an exclusive interview with TradeArabia's Sree Bhat.
As part of its localisation programme, Microsoft has launched a portal that aims to draw the local community’s expertise to enhance the products’ acceptability in the market.
The portal invites users to send feedback to the company on the Arabic terms used in various software interfaces.
“We launched the portal in July and so far we have had good response and some of the feedback is really commendable. We are extending the timeline to receive feedback till October so more people can participate,” says Hijazi.
“This is the first time we have launched a community portal in the region. If we have a valid comment or feedback from the user, we can make changes.”
The terms have been translated by content editors in the region and the company takes regional dialects and usages into consideration while translating them.
Though the region’s business sector is bilingual, the Arabic interface is popular in many sectors. “We target mainly the public sector, education and home-users who may not have a good command of English.
“We have a large number of Arabic applications in Accounting, Health, Insurance and banking running on Windows. Anyone can develop Arabic applications or Arabic-enabled applications that run on Windows. We also support Arabic content on the Internet,” continues Hijazi.
One of the most successful initiatives based on Microsoft’s Arabic products is the e-government projects of various Middle East countries. “We are really proud of the achievements made by some of the regional governments using Microsoft products and tools,” says Hijazi.
He says localization of any product is need-based. “If there is sufficient demand for a product to be localized, it will be done.”
Hijazi categorically rejects the perception in the market that Arabic products have less features or are less stable compared with the English ones.
“This perception is wrong. We have a single executable file. You have the translation outside the engine and we do not touch it. When we enable Arabic language, we enable it from day one, we fix all the problems with Arabic, English, German, inside a single executable file. We do not touch the engine of the operating system or the application. When there is an error, it happens in the interface. Very rarely you will have a problem in Arabic as a functionality, which does not happen in English.”
The only difference between English and Arabic is the interface and some linguistic features in the core like handwriting recognition. More than 95 per cent of the features in English are the same as in Arabic, says Hijazi.
Excerpts from the interview:
Can you describe Microsoft’s localization efforts?
Each of the product teams across the company is responsible for localizing their own product. These teams’ localization efforts vary depending on the number of foreign-language versions. The most widely used products, Office and Windows, are distributed in 36 languages, but we also s