Microsoft, you giving us some LIP?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/02/10 07:30 -08:00, original URI:

Not too long ago, I posted (in Lions and tigers and bearsELKs, Oh my!) about ELKs. And about how I would talk more about what is involved in "getting out of the way". This is another post on that theme...

Review of our story so far:

In Fall 2004, Cathy Wissink and I were in San Jose at the Unicode Technical Committee meeting (being held at Apple) along with 20+ of our colleagues from various companies involved with internationalization. We spoke at the IMUG (International Mac User's Group) meeting one evening, giving a much longer version of the talk that has been done before at both prior Internationalization and Unicode Conferences and at the Microsoft Global Development & Deployment Conference. Things were a little bit closer to shipping so more could be said, and since we were given more time we were definitely allowed to say more.

The title of the talk? Windows for the Rest of the World -- Customizing Windows for Emerging Markets. This post will contain a few more slides of the content from that talk. :-)

Now ELKs were not written just for the sake of adding locales for the fun of it. They were added to help a specific, important scenario.

You see, no matter how useful additional locale support may be, it still forces you to use Windows localized into a language other than the one in which you may feel most comfortable. And the real scenario here that drove the ELK project was a desire to allow localized versions to be released more quickly, in some cases localizations into languages that were not yet supported on Windows (and the ELKs were in this context a fancy way of making sure that support would be present).

Now remember how I bemoaned the expense of obtaining locale data? Well, the expense of localization blows that number out of the water.

It actually reminds me of an old Dilbert cartoon, which was in newspapers back in May of 1999 (to my knowledge it is the only Dilbert cartoon involving internationalization or localization outside of the funny stories involving the Elbonians. The lines in this strip (sorry, no permissions to repost the original comic!) go like this:

Pointy-haired boss: Tina, I want you to write the Chinese version of our product's instructions.
Tina: Can you tell the difference between Chinese words and random scribbles?
Pointy-haired boss: No.
Tina: I'll be done in five minutes.

Tina is right -- bad localization is cheap and fast. But you also won't find many people buying it.

Good software localization is hugely expensive, and involves expertise that is hard to find and keep -- knowledge of the source language, the target language, and most importantly the technology and how it is described in both languages. It is not mere translation, because the work to make people feel comfortable with the product also has to be done if you want users to be happy with the product.

So how does the idea of getting localization done faster and for more languages get reconciled with these difficulties?

Introducing, the Language Interface Pack or LIP.

And this is all very important. Because there is a huge demand for more localizations, and more quickly. So by partnering with third parties allows for cheaper, faster, and culturally accurate localizations, and most importantly by working to localizing "the 20% of strings seen 80% of the time" Microsoft is able to enable cheaper and faster localizations, while not sacrificing quality.

At the time of this post, there are LIPs for 19 languages (when we did the presentation, there were only 4!):

For more information on LIPs, including what is localized and more, see the LIP FAQ, brought to you by Microsoft's own Dr. International!

Looking back at the earlier post about ELKs, the temptation to talk about how some LIPs did not need ELKs (such as Romanian), and other ELKs have LIPs (compare the two lists, you will see many similarities), and there some LIP-less ELKs (again, compare the lists). Think of what those ELKs save on ChapStick!

Of course you never know what might be a LIP tomorrow.  Who knows when Microsoft may give you all some LIP?

The goal for both ELKs and LIPs is to support more people with more languages and to constantly work to broaden the number of people who can enjoy Windows.

And yes, there is more that was said that night, and more to say here in general. For another time....


This post brought to you by "æ" (U+00e6, a.k.a. LATIN SMALL LETTER AE)
A letter that itself plans to be the star of a future posting on Sorting It All Out....

# Primoz on Saturday, February 12, 2005 12:09 PM:

There is also a LIP for Slovenian. Installs on top of Windows XP English.

# Michael Kaplan on Saturday, February 12, 2005 12:24 PM:

Indeed! The LIP FAQ even points out that it actually a *full* localization, rather than a partial one like most LIPs!

# Primoz on Saturday, February 12, 2005 1:51 PM:

Yes, and it was released almost at the same time as the XP itself. Kudos to MS USA and MS Slovenia for that!

# Anonymous on Saturday, July 23, 2005 1:32 PM:

This may remind you a little of my post back in January (Does MS pull new keyboard layouts out...

referenced by

2012/03/21 And it all started with a request that was refused....

2010/09/18 The messy concept of the LIPs from when XP was LIP-less

2008/12/03 Want to hear about a cool new typographic convention? Khmer, and I'll tell you about it...

2008/02/17 Some of the problems with complaints about localization quality

2008/01/07 How does Microsoft 'manage' to not correct a spelling error, exactly?

2007/12/17 What's the difference between running a localized version of Windows and running Windows with that user interface language?

2007/09/21 If you had gotten there first, you might have staked your claim too!

2007/02/01 You can kiss Vista if you want, because it has LIPs, too!

2006/10/22 Making your own LIP?

2006/10/20 Over One Million Served!

2006/08/28 There should always be a fallback available

2006/07/27 When will we support Rongo-Rongo?

2006/07/01 Give a lady Urdu? (her due?)

2006/06/27 I Tswana know what you're thinking

2006/06/23 Do they grow beets in Luxembourg?

2006/06/22 Quechua me if you can!

2006/06/11 Why the Windows Shell can't provide the ultimate font solution for everyone (or even anyone!)

2006/05/16 Persian? Or Farsi?

2006/04/06 It's not Telugu [తెలుగు] Tubbies (and it's certainly not Punjabi [ਪੰਜਾਬੀ] Tubbies!)

2006/04/06 'c' is for click sounds, and they're good enough for me

2006/03/16 Even cooler than The Maltese Falcon

2006/03/16 Oh Kannada... (ಕನ್ನಡ)

2006/03/05 Microsoft is giving people some LIP again

2006/02/03 We're drowning in LIPs!

2005/12/17 ELKs aren't roaming where the servers are

2005/12/14 We've come a long way, I think

2005/12/01 What language to use

2005/11/30 Oops, we did it again

2005/10/14 Let there be LIPs

2005/07/23 Does MS pull new locales out of their [insert stronger language here]?

2005/05/02 Virtual PC needs international thought about its keyboard support

2005/03/20 Mixed feelings about the splitting out of features on Longhorn

2005/03/10 Another speaking gig (near Cleveland, OH)

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