The Benefits of Going Local

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 lingo.

The program makes sense for a number of reasons:

* Microsoft can open new markets to its products without the investment of additional resources.

* 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.

[Microsoft Monitor]

Written on March 21, 2004