Letters Some, but not too much sympathy for Microsoft Mac boss Kevin Browne from readers wanting Hebrew and Arabic support on the Macintosh.
Dear Mr. Kevin Browne,
I have just read the correspondence between you and Mr. Andrew Orlowski of the Register concerning the question of supplying Hebrew and Arabic versions of IE and Office, and I would like to add my appeal to his and the many others who have expressed their dismay with the current situation.
I am an economist, so I do appreciate your appeal to the question of profitability. But as Mr. Orlowski has noted, the nature of investment is that one bears costs up front in order to realize a profit stream
into the indefinite future; it is the present value of that stream that counts. Now I know you understand this idea, I am merely restating it as a point of reference. Mr. Orlowski has suggested that you may be
overestimating the costs of making this investment (which the Israeli vendor has offered to help defray, and which a community of interested programmers would be happy to help with, I am sure), while also
underestimating the benefits that will flow from it.
Macintosh is the superior platform, and time will continue to tell that story. If MacBU does not make this investment in a Hebrew/Arabic IE and
Office, then that part of the world will be fenced away from the Mac platform, because your products are just that important. It is as if you would be cutting their oxygen, both for the present generation of
Macophiles, and for all future (and larger) generations. I would urge you to take another look at the potential demand in Israel and the Arab
world for your superior products, keeping in mind the growth our platform will surely experience and the significance of the present value calculation (we are likely to remain in the present low interest
rate environment for some time to come, so the future counts importantly in that calculation).
There are two other factors to consider, concerning matters of goodwill; I hope you will not take my mention of them amiss. The one concern, mentioned already by Mr. Orlowski, is the message you send to the world concerning the second class status of the Mac platform, with a subtext that Microsoft intends to use its monopoly position to keep things that
way. This may not be part of your thinking, but as a Mac user long sensitive to such perceptions I can tell you that this is surely the way it will be seen. If I were Mr. Ballmer, I would want to head off any such
perception, given the legal situation and climate the company is still dealing with. Nor would I be concerned about Apple's drive to double its market share. MSFT is simply too big and powerful to be concerned about that.
The second concern is that MacBU will be seen to be less than a good eclectic citizen, both of the cultural community of our own great country and of the world at large. The three great monotheistic
religions are significantly represented at home and in the Middle East.
Don't you think you could turn a decision to offer Hebrew and Arabic into a very nice public relations coup? You could explain it by saying, "we decided to think a bit differently about this issue, and we are
happy we did."
I hope you will continue to think about this, because I truly believe it is the right thing to do for many reasons, not the least of which is the profit potential it represents for MacBU.
By the way, I do think you make "great products."
Iowa City, IA
Microsoft has walked away from its earlier investment in Arabic support, according to one reader:
Why the Microsoft Mac BU exec would flinch at a question regarding support in Hebrew or Arabic just shows how unaware he is of this.
Zeine Technologies in Jordan Arabized earier versions of the MacOS and Office for Mac. Furthermore the company also produces a competing Arabic word processor.
Furthermore, to make the matter worse, Microsoft Middle East recently invested in Zeine and One World Software (www.owss.com) to create a joint venture known as Estarta(www.estartasolutions.com)... More irony and more on how the Microsoft MacBU makes "smart and informed" decisions and moves...
Maybe what the MS exec failed to say was that his unit's "smart and informed" decisions and moves reflect the level of piracy in a region.
Israel alone has as much piracy as the rest of the Arabic speaking Middle East, when counted in monetary loss. But I dare say that had Microsoft itself ever taken that as the base of its strategy, Windows would be no where it is today with regards to market share and desktop dominance.
Furthermore, any decent business planner will tell you this: finance based plans are a flop. I personally shed my trusty 5300CS cause of the late Arabic releases! So to second The Register editor's cry: sod off and buy windows!
I covered the Jordanian IT sector in its prime back between 1996 to 1999 and I now do business consulting so I know what I am talking about!
But Apple should be doing much more to help its biggest ISV:-
I think you're missing the point to the response letter. MS is directly relating the support for the different language as a direction Apple has taken (or not taken). MS will follow suit, should Apple deem that they will actively solicit for the additional market. You should be asking Apple why they are not marketing specifically to the Hebrew contingent. When the market becomes viable for Apple, MS will have to respond.
Apple is currently paying LAN Admins and giving them free computers to appear in commercials about switching from Windows to Mac; surely, they can redirect some advertising dollars toward supporting your cause.
Thanks for the interesting coverage of the Hebrew scholars vs. MS Mac BU dispute... just thought I should point out that this issue goes far beyond Hebrew and Arabic -- Office on Mac simply doesn't support Unicode at all, as far as I can see. Whilst that obviously affects R-L scripts, it also means Mac Office is useless for many European and other roman-script languages. In my case that's Welsh -- where 'W' and 'Y' are vowels, which often need to be accented.
So I can't type simple words like "water" (dw^r) and "house" (ty^) in MS Office on my Mac.
I think MS saying that it's Apple's fault is rather misleading, since OS X's Unicode support seems fairly extensive. Apple's basic TextEdit.app copes fine with Welsh, so I really don't see why Office can't...
Whereas Microsoft's Kevin Browne states (with merit, I admit) that the Mac's small market share in Israel and other countries does not justify the cost of localization, enabling support for such languages is something that can be done relatively easily. Mac OS X includes such support (although sometimes incompletely) and I hope that Mr. Browne will consider adding support for languages such as Arabic/Farsi/Hebrew to MS Office.
In my opinion, until Apple does it's part to increase marketshare for the Mac OS, localization of software is a bit extreme for such small markets.
Enabling features already within the OS, on the other hand, is not too much to ask for.
Go away and buy a OS that supports Hebrew and Arabic languages... like Linux...
Maybe there should be a write-in campaign for Apple to support Hebrew?
Thanks for listening,
We've heard from Apple's Israel representative Yeda that Hebrew will be supported in Jaguar. Can anyone confirm?
Kevin Browne has his defenders:-
I think Kevin's on the level here. I think it really is too expensive.
There's still a lot of work to be done on Office v.X (I know, I run it...)
My impression is that under the skin, OS X is as rough as guts. They really are having problems coding to it. Taking on RTL languages when Apple's support is both slight and mushy would have to be a new name for business suicide. WorldCom may be able to fudge its cash flow, but Mac BU can't :-)
I know the RTL people are vocal: they yell at me too. But not many of them: I am only aware of two or three. Sure, they make a lot of noise, but there really does not seem to be many of them out there.
Just my thoughts
John McGhie, Consultant Technical Writer
I think your criticism of Mr Browne was rather unfair, He is running a departament which is probably resented within MS. He probably faces a tremendous amount of flak every day in his job.
I am sure that he would love to support the Mac platform fully, but us working within strict budgetary constraints [Microsoft has $30 billion in cash - ed. and that he MUST make a profit.
I feel it a shame that the MBU is vilified from within parts of the Mac community , their job seems to be a thankless one. They have brought us Office for X, without it Apple would be in serious trouble in the education market and any pretence to enter the desktop business world would be dead in the water,
Actually Paul, we made this very point earlier: Microsoft's Mac software is very good. And heroic, considering what they have to work with. (I'm thinking of the state of the Carbon APIs last year, when the MBU was porting Office to X). But is this a decision that's in Browne's hands?
The way this issue has been handled in the press so far leaves a lot of people (myself included) with the belief that the decisions about language support may be coming down from "on high" (ie Bill's paranoia).
Thanks for your time,
Philip R. Ershler
The KDE project, unfunded, was able to release KOffice 1.2beta2 on June 27 in 56 languages simultaneously. RTL, LTR, the works. If Microsoft is so talented, has so many resources, and so much cash, you would think they could easily outdo that. I don't understand why they don't have their software translated to 150+ languages. Hmm, unless they think they can charge extra $$$ for the localised version.