Why the proofing tools are all bundled....

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/04/12 02:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2005/04/12/407456.aspx

Earlier this month, saturnin02 posted the following opinion onto at least seven English and Italian Microsoft newsgroups, in response to a general thread about the Microsoft Proofing Tools and the fact that they basically bundle all of the languages together, rather than selling the languages separately:

This sort of discussion underscores what's wrong with Microsoft (and others) pricing policies, indirectly supporting illegal activities. Having paid a premium price for Office 2003 and using it at 98% of the time with only English, it is ridiculous to have to purchase an entire CD for dozens of languages one would never, ever use. Microsoft is making life easier for itself by bundling them all together, for it figures companies would buy it regardless. To hell with individual, occasional user, who only needs one or two languages for occasional use. Then they turn around and complain about illegal market and how many sales they are loosing. I too have a need for a second language, but I would never pay Microsoft for the CD at that price.

Our own Mike Williams responded in the thread thusly:

Over 90% of the tools on that CD are licensed from other companies (mainly in Europe). The companies that produce these proofing tools individually charge more for single elements of their packages (e.g. spelling or grammar or thesaurus) than Microsoft charges for all languages and all the tools (which includes speech and handwriting and other tools) on the entire CD.

This is a very true point -- and it is a very real truth. I am going to take it a step further.

There are times that the model of the U.S. Senate (where each state gets the same number of seats) if preferred and times that the model of the U.S. House of Representatives (where each state gets seats based on population) is better. Microsoft is not a government (I have trouble imagining someone acting as the British Ambassador to Microsoft!), but even so there are times that the customer benefits most from separate packages and times that they benefit most from bundled packages. And the Proofing Tools are a time that the bundle is best.

And not just for the reason that Mike hints at -- a way to charge less for the tools altogether (some of which would cost more for a single language than they do for the whole package as it ships today!).

Because the people who create the tools need to be worried about recouping their costs, which can obviously be significant. But a company like Microsoft needs to not worry so much about that issue, and certainly not to set different prices for different languages, based on how much they can recoup (which could make some languages less appealing, even if they would be able to see potential use). By bundling them all, they provide a compelling feature set that is still lower than picking up the tools for even a single language might be, if one could find a single language and all of its features bundled.

The same model explains a lot of why the GIFT team ships almost all of the locale support to all platforms -- because the platform needs to be consistent for developers who are counting on that locale support being present. Even the items that do not get installed automatically which are on the CD are only that way for reasons of performance (extra perf. hit for complex scripts)  or size of install (the code pages and the CJK fonts/IMEs can add up to the size of the install). But the goal of having international support easily available is really the only line item here. If Windows were splintered out with language support varying for different SKUs then many languages would have to have different pricing models.

Which would really kind of suck from the standpoint of developers who needed to avoid targeting specific SKUs.

Now I understand saturnin02's point, and it can be frustrating if you just want one to get the whole bundle. Because it is easy to assume that if over 30 languages costs N dollars than one would cost N/30 or better. But that is not really how it is, and the current model lets the price of the Proofing Tools be about something other than the cost of the Proofing Tools, if you catch my drift.

Just as we do not fragment the market to make all of the languages we do not support yet cost more just because they might involve markets to which Microsoft has not yet been which may not have a many customers. It lets my job be about the opening it all up and getting out of the way and not the pure about what each language can get on the auction block. Which is one of the biggest reasons why I accepted the offer to make it my job.

Imagine if Microsoft did that for languages that needed fonts, and a big Chinese font and the IME that supports it would cost a small fortune, while a font and keyboard for a language that used only characters that are already in fonts would cost nothing. What would happen to the pricing model for languages? And how often would people buy Windows versions based on how little support is installed, even if they could have made use of more. I really would not like such a situation, and I am really glad that it is not the model that Microsoft uses for its language support, either for locales on Windows and the .NET Framework of in the Proofing Tools for Office.

If you know what I mean.

This post brought to you by "" and  "" (U+099d and U+0d2c, a.k.a. BENGALI LETTER JHA and MALAYALAM LETTER BA)
Two letters that exist in fonts that first shipped (along with shaping engines) in Windows XP SP2, with a price to customers of exactly $0. :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 12 Apr 2005 12:41 AM:

To clarify what I meant when I said "our own Mike Williams" I meant as a regular commenter here, he no longer works for Microsoft....

# Jesper Holmberg on 16 Apr 2005 12:24 AM:

On a, you know, somewhat related note...

...there's a reason the brits invented stamps. It simply proved cheaper to flat-fee all domestic letters, than to calculate the exact cost of delivering each letter. Even if you're just sending letters a short distance, you're generally better off than if you'd have to pay for the exact cost of delivering it plus the cost of calculating the exact cost.

referenced by

2006/10/14 Understanding (and explaining) why English is everywhere

2006/10/05 The fonts are no charge, but the OS they are in has to cost something

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