Microsoft Mac boss responds to Hebrew snub

You're not worth it

Kevin Browne, manager of the Microsoft Macintosh Business Unit, has responded to our coverage of the lack of localization on the Mac for Hebrew, Arabic and other languages. We print his reply in full. We print our response in full, too.

From: Kevin Browne

To: Andrew Orlowski

Cc: Karen Sung [Waggener Edstrom]; Rich Adolph [Waggener Edstrom]; Erik Ryan [Microsoft]

Dear Mr. Orlowski,

I am the General Manager in charge of Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit. I noted your interest in seeing Microsoft localize products such as Office and IE into Hebrew. I thought it unprofessional of you to use your column to publicly ridicule and abuse a woman who was just trying to do her job. However, I am providing this comment in hopes of concluding this matter.

Microsoft routinely reviews the available market data and considers making our Mac products available in more languages. To date, we have decided to support Office in six languages: English, Japanese, German, French, Swedish, and Spanish. We localize Internet Explorer into a number of additional languages, primarily to complement Apple's choice of top tier languages for Mac OS X. The current business climate for some of these existing languages is weaker than we'd like, so we are not actively looking to expand our investment to include new languages for less-proven markets at this time. The relevant fact for this discussion is that number of Macs in use by Hebrew-speaking people around the world is regrettably too small for us to consider localizing a product as extensive as Office, and Apple has not named it a top tier localization for Mac OS X, so we will not localize IE either. Combined with the tiny market segment opportunity, the currently weak support for the Hebrew language in Mac OS X itself makes it cost-prohibitive for Microsoft even to support typing in Hebrew in the English versions of Office and IE.

Mr. Radishkovitz' "offer to pay" for localization is unfortunately beside the point: supporting languages like Hebrew would require extensive investment in the core programming code of Office, and require extensive testing and debugging in order to ensure a quality experience. This would require time and effort from people in Microsoft's Mac Business Unit -- people that we have working on projects which more dramatically benefit the broader Mac user community. We think the Mac platform has benefited from the way Microsoft has supported the platform. By making smart decisions about where to invest, we can continue to make great products for the large numbers of Mac users who speak one of the aforementioned languages. This is just good business: I hope you and Mr. Radishkovitz can respect this.


Kevin F. Browne
General Manager, MacBU
Microsoft Corp.

Our reply:-

From: Andrew Orlowski
To: Kevin Browne
Cc: Karen Sung [Waggener Edstrom]; Rich Adolph [Waggener Edstrom]; Erik Ryan [Microsoft]

Many thanks for your response, Kevin.

If you don't mind, we'll print it in full.

I'm an experienced Macintosh user and appreciate the professionalism of your team's work. In fact, I quite lord it over IE users who don't have a 'Scrapbook'.

But I found Karen's response extraordinarily unprofessional - and quite unprecedented in ten year's experience as a journalist.

Karen was not misquoted, and throwing a hissy fit isn't how journalists and PR professionals resolve disputes. Our long relationship with Microsoft - The Register was founded eight years ago - suggests that a warm professional relationship can flourish. I'll happily forward you encoded recordings of our exchanges, and you can judge for yourself.

I appreciate Microsoft is not a charity, but could you elaborate on your comment "just good business" ?

The volume of correspondence we've received from Israeli users, and from Hebrew scholars and students outside Israel, suggests a strong demand for Hebrew support in Office and Internet Explorer.

- How does Microsoft evaluate what constitutes "good business?" Can you detail the overhead?

- How does Microsoft quantify demand, or anticipated demand, for native-Hebrew or Arabic versions of Office and IE? How often does it undertake these exercises?

- Microsoft makes strategic decisions to enter new markets where the specific business unit (GUI/Windows, handheld, games consoles) takes heavy losses upfront. This is traditional investment practice.

But you don't seem to have that leeway. So can we deduce that the MacBU isn't a strategic priority for Microsoft? And that localization on non-Windows platforms isn't a strategic priority?

- You write that localization would require "extensive investment" and that Microsoft Mac BU has made "smart decisions" - one of which is failing to provide localization for Arabic, Hebrew on Macintosh, et al - in order to justify "making great products".

Would Microsoft contemplate third-party involvement and investment in Q&A, to make localized versions available? What does it need to viable? In real figures?

If you want to take portions of this off-the-record, we'll respect that. The Register serves over a million stories a day ( he meant page impressions - Ed), and it's a provocative forum for the IT industry. We'd appreciate a candid reply.


Andrew Orlowski
The Register
San Francisco, CA


We've noted your concern. To Hebrew writers, scholars; Arabic writers and scholars; Greek writers on Macintosh platforms -

But it's too much trouble. Now go away and buy Windows. ®

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