Amharic's on the phone, you want I should take a message?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/12/14 10:01 -05:00, original URI:

The mail I got yesterday pointed out an interesting article:

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt reports from Addis Ababa on the increasing popularity of mobile phones which permit text messages in Amharic.

Ethiopians get texting in Amharic

The article is interesting for several reasons, including but not limited to:

Now if that last point is true then I am still very happy for the customer, even if I am frustrated that as a company we may have really missed the boat here, despite wonderful work on the typography side to support the language and script.

I am intensely curious about the five Nokia devices planned for the market, including the basic model (the Nokia 1200) being rolled out now, and what OS is running on it.

Does anyone know for sure?

Either way, I think that Microsoft and others has to work harder to support scenarios like this from end to end. Typography/rendering is in essence the most expensive and sometimes hardest piece to globalization support for a given language, and if we can do that then failing to do the rest is like hitting the ball almost out of the park, making a triple coming 'round to home plate, and stopping before touching the plate so that someone has the opportunity to tag you out....

I don't know what the plans are for Amharic/Tigrinia/Ge'ez/etc. in the next version either, but it may clearly be time to figure out what the plans are here....


This post brought to you by(U+1357, aka ETHIOPIC SYLLABLE PWA)

# John Cowan on 14 Dec 2007 12:46 PM:

IIRC, the term "Ethiopic" is not really in use in the country, and was concocted as a compromise by the joint group that submitted the proposal to the UTC and WG.

# Mike Dimmick on 14 Dec 2007 12:48 PM:

Very few (none?) of Nokia's phones run Windows CE. The 'smartphone' end run Series 60 UI on Symbian, while the low end generally used to run some in-house Nokia OS (which might have been based on some other commercial OS, but they have not revealed what it is). You have to remember that Nokia have been in this business for a long long time (they shipped their first GSM handset in 1992, 'Snake' first appeared in 1997 on the 6110, when MS was just about releasing Windows CE 1.0 on Handheld PCs).

The 1200 apparently uses Series 30, which in Nokia's online glossary is defined as:

"A user interface for mobile phones that has monochrome or colour display resolution of 96 x 65 pixels. The Nokia series 30 UI is based on a two-soft-key concept, which has a Send key, an End key, and scrolling keys."

I don't think Series 30 supports Java applications. My 3100 runs Series 40 (for 128x128 colour displays, four-way scrolling) which does, not that I use them!

This looks like a custom build for this market and as such I'd expect that few other phones will be able to display an Amharic SMS, even though Amharic/Ethiopic was added in v3.0 of Unicode (1999).

# Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven on 15 Dec 2007 3:10 AM:

Yes, according to it uses Series 30.

From what I understand the Series 40 is the one with a colour display and the Series 30 is aimed at monochrome only.

From a press release of Nokia from 2003:

Nokia's Series 30 platform fulfills basic feature requirements, such as a phone book, Java application support and short messaging service (SMS).  Series 40 upgrades users to a high-resolution color screen, photo viewing ability and support for Java games, and Series 60 introduces many additional improvements: a more powerful operating system, a larger, sharper screen, increased memory, an applications menu, greater connectivity via Bluetooth, multi-tasking capabilities, and many others.

From the description of the 1650:

Language support: Arabic, English, French, Urdu, Farsi, Pashto, Amharic, Sesotho, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Swahili, German, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, Portuguese

Quite an interesting mix.

# Ellizabeth Blunt on 20 Dec 2007 11:48 AM:

There are apparantly complications with the 13 month calendar, which I didn't go into in the article on the BBC website.  I didn't get a demonstration of this, so I am not totally clear about what happens, but apparantly it is not fully supported and has to be manually updated from time to time.

But they do hope to have a fully automatic calander in their next version, along with predictive messaging.

The man who knows all about it is called Levi Girma, in Nokia's Nairobi office.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Dec 2007 11:52 AM:

Thank you, Elizabeth!

Okay, I guess I won't feel as bad that we didn't do it either, yet....

referenced by

2010/02/20 The road not traveled (or, more to the point, the road not built) for Amharic

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