Last week Microsoft announced the local language program, which provides tools that
would allow governments and volunteers to adapt Windows XP or Office 2003 to the local
The program makes sense for a number of reasons:
* Microsoft can open new markets to its products without the investment of additional
* Microsoft can demonstrate to local governments its commitment to cooperating with
them and transcending language or cultural barriers. I see the latter point as more
important, considering that Microsoft is an American company and that America is regarded
in some countries as a local culture killer.
* By allowing locals to do the work, Microsoft increases the likelihood that Windows
menus and other features will use the language in the right way and reflect dialectical
differences among regions.
* The program creates an alternative to local Linux or other open-source software
development. Microsoft software is already baked, so to speak, while, in many instances,
local Linux and open-source development would be at the recipe stage. By providing
tools to localize Windows, Microsoft can provide baked goods that locals can consume
right away rather than write their own recipe and bake something new.
* Likewise, Microsoft can make its software a more appealing alternative to countries
looking to build up indigenous software industries. Almost no company partners better
than Microsoft, which is one reason for the company’s success. Microsoft hopes
to woo more local government and developer support for building solutions on top of
Windows, Office System or Windows Server System. Microsoft’s worst nightmare
would be a China, India or Russia building a robust, indigenous software industry
around Linux and other open-source code and begin to export lower-cost products that
are as good as, say, Windows or Office.