Itzik Radishkovitz, CEO of Apple's Israel representative Yeda, called for a worldwide user campaign to pressure Microsoft to add localization support for Hebrew in its Mac products, in an interview with The Register today.
As we reported earlier this week, Microsoft refuses to support Hebrew, Arabic, and Korean languages in Macintosh versions of its Office suite, or its Internet Explorer browser, obliging institutional buyers in these markets to opt for Windows instead.
Radishkovitz said that Yeda had first approached Microsoft in 1998 to add Hebrew support for the Mac. After several rebuffs, Yeda offered to pay for the cost of localization:
"'Just tell us how much will it cost us', we asked. 'How much money do you want - because we are ready to pay!'" he said. But Microsoft Israel refused to listen.
"We are very dependent on this - because you can't sell into large institutions, academic institutions, without Office."
"Even in the United States and Canada there are a lot of Jewish communities, and people who would be happy to use Office in Hebrew."
Many educational institutions with a strong Macintosh tradition are being obliged to turn to Windows, he added.
And he called for users communities - both Jewish and Arabic - to pressure Microsoft to add support on the Macintosh platform.
Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn't it? But so far neither Apple US nor Microsoft has provided with us an adequate answer.
Apple referred us to Microsoft, and despite several calls to Microsoft's PR agency Waggoner Edstrom Strategic Communications (as it bills itself) , we've been unable to speak to a Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit representative directly. Instead we got a PR who offered much conjecture - and told us that although she couldn't say for sure, the lack of localization was probably because it didn't make sense for Microsoft as a business decision.
Yes, yes - we said. We know that. But what about the counter offer by Yeda - to underwrite the Hebrew localization itself? She didn't know. We waited, and waited, and still didn't hear anything.
Then on Monday, after we published the story, we got a vinegary voice mail (and accompanying email) from the WaggEd bunny complaining that she'd been misquoted. Actually we reported her comments faithfully - and as of the time of writing, we still haven't been able to speak to a Microsoft Mac BU staffer. This we pointed out, was hardly "strategic" - and barely even amounts to "communication".
We ought to point out that we've been dealing with WaggEd for years - and they're usually extremely conscientious. When Microsoft feels a story is significant, they call us back right away. For example our revelation about Passport's onerous Terms and Conditions, prompted a huge public backlash, and as soon as Microsoft rewrote the terms, it made sure we were the first to know.
By contrast Hebrew localization just doesn't seem to be a PR priority - although outside the United States it's viewed as a prime concern by AntiTrust regulators. Microsoft's snub to Hebrew writers has already prompted a complaint to the Israeli government. And remember - it's not just Hebrew writers, this affects all right to left languages, and even Cyrillic writers, who find themselves being herded into the Windows monoculture by Microsoft's failure to support the Macintosh platform.
The Register has a mere 250,000 readers every day - a small number for a giant IT company to consider, but perhaps there are enough to be a nuisance. We won't let this fascinating story disappear, for sure.
So tell us of your experience of demanding a reply from Microsoft or Apple, and we'll share them here. ®