Software in Emerging Markets

Localization industry organization LISA has posted an interesting Q&A with Ori Redler, co-founder of software vendor RedleX, which has developed a word processing application for the Mac that supports such “minority” languages as Welsh, Farsi and Hebrew. Not only does the software take Unicode support to the next level, it does so at an affordable price, at just $39 per license.

Why have the larger software developers overlooked (or ignored) minority languages thus far? Here’s what Ori has to say:

“Do other developers show disrespect by not issuing localized versions of their products? Not necessarily. Many of them, I feel, simply lack the awareness or tend to ignore markets outside English-speaking countries as ‘irrelevant.’ I can understand the financial sense of this decision, at least with respect for some languages. But I think this is also a misunderstanding of the situation. The fact that Czech, Greek or Swedish users don’t make a fuss about getting their localized versions doesn’t mean that they don’t need them. They do. They’re just being civil about it, or, worse, are simply accustomed to being ignored.”

RedleX uses an open source localization model — asking volunteers to contribute in the effort. Meanwhile, a company like Microsoft says that it can’t afford to provide its full-featured software to emerging markets at reduced prices; instead, it offers a stripped-down version of its software, known as “Microsoft Lite.”

Yet there is nothing “lite” about RedleX’s software. Instead of penalizing an emerging market with stripped-down software, it offers full-featured software to all markets at a reasonable price.

Says Ori: “From our point of view as software makers — and I think this would apply to all types of makers — the best way we can approach the Digital Divide is by ‘ignoring’ it. That is, we’re selling to countries considered across this Divide not because they’re across it, but because we think Mellel is something they can use and benefit by… and help us pay the bills while we are at it. When making a deal with a dealer in an “across” country, or with a student or school, we lower the price significantly. We’re not doing this as a ‘favor’ to anyone; we do it because it makes good business sense. We’d rather sell a million copies of Mellel to India for $2 a copy than sell ten for $40 a copy. This, I think, is the most practical way to treat this divide and other ‘divides.'”

I’d love to see RedleX tackle the Windows OS.

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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.