While Microsoft Fiddles (cont.)

Red Hat Linux is now avaailable in Bangla (also known as Bengali). Bangla is the official language of Bangladesh, a country with more than 140 million people. Why Bangla you ask?

Because a growing number of programmers in India and Bangladesh want software in their native tongue. And, more important, because Microsoft has so far largely ignored this market.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

    Javed Tapia, Director Red Hat India said “India’s domestic software industry resembles the TV industry around nine years ago when the programming was only in Hindi or English. Similarly, today computers are predominantly used only in English.” Over 90mn Indians speak Bengali language. He added, “Given that only a small percentage of our population communicates in English, it is imperative that software is available in Bengali and other local languages. The Red Hat Bangla desktop will definitely play a significant role in ensuring that benefits of the IT revolution are realized by millions of Bengalis,” he said.

    The Bangla Linux desktop has the potential to change how education and e-government work. In education, teaching school children will be easier through computer user interfaces that are in Bengali. In e-Government, the use of Bangla Linux will enable users to access and/or create information in their own language. Citizens can access Government services in Bengali. Localization also expands business opportunities of Independent Software Vendors developing applications for education, e-Governance, Rural Banking, Community Information Centers (CICs) etc.

    This is a major milestone in Red Hat’s long-term strategy for India. In addition to Bangla, Red Hat is working on localization of other Indian languages including Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi and Tamil. All these will be available as a part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 4 in February 2005.

I’m critical of Microsoft because the company has largely ignored countries like Bangladesh for years. Microsoft has been so consumed with software piracy that it figures any localization investment is a waste of money. And since they don’t provide software at a price that most consumers in these poorer markets can afford, they create a self-fulfillling prophecy. But then along comes Linux, a boom in outsourced software development, and, suddenly Microsoft is on the outside looking in.

According to this article Microsoft is now working on a Bangla OS, to be released in a year.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.