Additional personal speculation on the Vista MUI SKU story

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/08/19 11:31 -04:00, original URI:

I was watching Oliver Stone's Wall Street last night and there was a bit that popped out at me. It was the scene where Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) was explaining his plan to bring the airline to profitability:

Thank you, Gordon.
First, I want you all to know that my door will always be open...
...because I know from my dad it's you guys that keep Bluestar flying.
What I've come up with here is a basic three-point plan.
One: we modernize. Our computer software is dog shit. We update it.
We squeeze every dollar out of each mile flown.
Don't sell a seat to a guy for 79 bucks when he's willing to pay 379.
Effective inventory management will increase our load factor by 5-20%.
That translates to approximately $50-200 million in revenues.
The point being,we can beat the majors at a price war.

That bit in red is the sort of thing that everyone can understand, it is just the way businesses work. It is a simple principle that can be expanded out into any business that is either successful, or that could have been [more] successful had they paid more attention to the principle.

Anyway, please keep this principle in mind, as you read this blog post.

At the risk of repeating myself, I feel that I must point out that this post is inspired by my personal opinions. Anyone who quotes this post with an "According to Microsoft..." (who I cannot speak for) is a completely and utter moronic wingnut who is not paying close attention to what is going on around them.

I am going to talk about MUI (Multilingual User Interface).

Like a "Google 20% time" project on steroids, the success of MUI was not really foreseen by the highest levels of management that approved it -- the biggest push was I believe for some of the cost saving aspects that the technology would in the long term bring to the overall localization process.

Perhaps people had hopes that some of the huge scenarios like large multinational companies buying into it would turn into such big areas, but I honestly doubt it really hit any kind of radar as a possibility until those huge customers started clamoring for it.

And I know there were huge scenarios that were missed like the Terminal Server scenario with one server having all the languages installed where people would log in with their preferred language choice -- I know this because the language counts in server were always lower than client until a huge clamoring to get those client resources on Terminal Servers came up. People at MS were just caught unawares, the full potential of the idea had just not occurred to everyone beforehand.

They say that the best thing that can ever happen to your feature is for the executive staff to notice it, and MUI was no exception here -- as lot of the hacks that had to be put in to make it work in Windows 2000 were allowed to be replaced over the next few releases with a more solid implementation in the resource loader, and the division wide push for a language neutral Vista was able to made, as well as the updates to the entire model for localization in Windows.

Of course they also say that the worst thing that can ever happen to your feature is for the executive staff to notice it, and MUI was no exception here, either.

Because almost from the very beginning, pretty much as soon as the potential was realized based on the clamoring of those big customers, the licensing model for MUI has always been constructed with the assumption that it is a "big version" feature.

And this was true long before the The Vista MUI SKU story spelled it out so baldly.

I have dozens of messages from the Contact link along the lines of these examples:

Can you please tell me where can I download a Vista English LIP? (No, not for Vista Ultimate). I have a Japanese Vista Home and was looking everywhere for weeks to find an English LIP so I can operate the new laptop. Bought it in Japan so it's in Japanese. Bummer...

questions for you.
I need to test something on localized versions of vista home(German, French, Japanese, Korean).
do I have to buy four different versions of Vista or can I just buy one and use that for all these languages.
I remember hearing that Vista is built with language neutral so you can just change your locale settings to turn your English Vista to some localized(fully) version of Vista. Is that correct?

Michael, how can I get MUI for Vista Home Basic? I am not looking for a handout and I'll pay for the extra languages I need. But I can't believe there is no way to get such a thing for two-language households. I can't believe we really have to buy the version that enables every language.

How do I get English on Spanish Vista Home?

How do I get Spanish added to my English Vista Home Basic for my grandfather? His English is not so good.

I hate to comment bile, but I just have to say that it's really lame that you have to buy the "Ultimate" version of windows to get a feature that is more than 80% complete. Especially when we are talking not about some value-added entertainment option, but rather just to get language packs for an international product. Isn't that just saying "Here's the 80% finished version of Windows. If you want the really finished version, you've gotta pay extra."
Since 2000, I think that Microsoft has made some great strides in improving their image, and they did it the honest way -- by opening lines of comunication, genuinely listening to their customers, and acting on what they learned. That said, I think that their marketing of the Vista SKUs was a setback, and it's a real shame because Vista is a great product.

There was an ad for HP with an English and Spanish machine low end, but I can't find it now. I wonder how hispanics are supposed to afford a bilingual machine for grandma or whatever. It should be $10 for Spanish, not $200.

Hey...what's the word from the inside on how folks with no money (developing countries) can get a copy of Vista that IS NOT ultimate but can still get language packs? Seems stupid to limit packs to Ultimate, no?
Otherwise Windows is dead outside of "countries with White Folks."

Wasn't the original word that all languages would be available on all SKUs in Vista? What's the point in depriving Slovakia their own freaking localized version...they can't afford Vista. (I assume you agree with all I'm saying)...what's the business justification and what are the chance it will open up?

And so on -- like I said, I have a ton of them. And others in support and other customer connection situations have lots more. It is clear that there is a scenario here.

I am sure that all of the people asking would probably love to get something here for free but most everyone expects if they get the feature that they would have to pay something. It is just that no one wants or expects to have to buy the most expensive consumer version for a more gated/scoped scenario of just a couple of languages. If there was a feature up on to add a language for some amount that was smaller than the $200 difference for the full version and the $159 difference for the upgrade, I think these language packs would sell like crazy because most people aren't willing to but the fuller version if they don't need all the functionality behind it.

However, it is clear that the SKUs are not set up that way -- they are set up assuming that everyone will go with Ultimate.

But then, they are also (as I said before) really thinking most about other scenarios that are not this one.

It does not make sense to complain too much, as the situation is better: prior to Vista, you had to set up a SELECT agreement which had a minimum requirement of six licenses for Windows. And now you just have to buy the one more expensive version.

But with all of the people clamoring, it is really hard to believe that we (Microsoft) as a company are not missing an additional group of scenarios here.

Of course the places where these decisions are made are far outside of where I work, or really anyone in Windows International. In this case the connections we have here are that

So I am interested -- and we are interested. The trick is that the case has to be made to the people who make the decisions and the case has to make sense in terms of the additional, unanticipated by the current plan scenario(s), since it isn't up to the people who are hearing so much about the missing/undersupported cases....


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# Adam on 19 Aug 2007 3:01 PM:

Heh. If anyone finds this interesting, they should probably also read the article "Camels and Rubber Duckies"[0] by Joel Spolsky. It's relevant, honest.


# Michael S. Kaplan on 19 Aug 2007 3:23 PM:

Yes, I have always loved that article. :-)

# Lukas Beeler on 19 Aug 2007 3:41 PM:

Lenovo shipped almost exclusively "MUI" XP here in Switzerland. It was a nightmare - stuff didn't work right (Outlook Express, Attachments, took more than half a year for a public fix), and many things weren't translated. IE7 on MUI systems took a looong while.

It was impossible to roam profiles from "native German" XP to MUI XP, because some stupid applications had hardcoded the profile part, and that didn't work with MUI XP.

With Vista, this changed. I like the situation as it is now, though it is not perfect (as you said).

Still, it's good progress.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 19 Aug 2007 11:27 PM:

Yes, I think we are doing better. Though I can fully identify with people who are impatient here for more progress -- especially given how long it took to get Vista out there....

The key, I think, is to continue to do better, and to do it quicker next time. :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 19 Aug 2007 11:33 PM:

One further note on the Spolsky article -- Windows is obviously a complex enough product that the big parts of the feature differentiation is not as minor and inconsequential as he posits....

# Tom R. on 27 Aug 2007 7:07 PM:

MacOS X and several *NIX-es are delivered with the "MUI" component with the OS.

Windows XP and Vista still display the time in violation of norwegian standard (our standard says period ".", Windows uses ":"), but MacOS X shows our time correctly. i.e. Wrong: 13:52, correct: 13.52. Unfortunately it has been wrong in digital watches from USA and Windows itself for decades so many people here don't even know it's wrong. I actually found out it's wrong because I wrote the norwegian language council to enquire why MacOS X renders it with a period and not as I thought to be correct, the ":".

So while I enjoy my Vista Ultimate finally giving me multiple languages at home (we have a business agreement at work and gets MUI), its a bit confusing that it costs so much on Windows and Apple and Sun and the opensource community are able to give it for free..., and I won't buy an argument that Apple or the opensource community translates in an inferior way when Windows even actually renders something incorrectly ;)

# zwirwel on 27 Aug 2007 7:21 PM:

Apologies if my last comment did go through, but I got a 404.

It's a bit pussling that MacOS X and Linux/UNIX are able to give MUI for free with the OS and Microsoft are not. I'm not sure why this is?

Especially given that Windows renders time incorrectly in norwegian localisation. Windows renders time with a ":", but norwegian standard says it should be a period ".". Example: incorrect is 13:32, correct is 13.32.

MacOS X actually renders this correctly, and I have been so (ab)used with the incorrect way from imported LCD clocks to whatnot, that I wrote the language council enquiring about what seemed to me to be MacOS X rendering the time incorrectly, and it's not. ;)

So I won't buy an argument that Microsofts localisation is superior to the one in the opensource community or MacOS X either. ;)

I think the reason end users complain about language packs is that we care about language. It is more like an essential part of the system than a "nice addon". I personally find that a feature like Bitlocker is a value worthy feature I would consider paying more for, but getting language packs is something I'm not sure why I am charged extra for on Windows when I'm not on MacOS X or other OSs.

On MacOS X, it's as simple as going to System Preferences and international and dragging the order of languages up and down, then restarting applications or at worst logging off and then back on again and it "just works".

Yuhong Bao on 19 Mar 2011 12:19 AM:

Reminds me of this:

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referenced by

2007/10/10 Core XP user interface languages are not free as in beer, or speech

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