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Microsoft's Mac chief explains Hebrew position

Not on To-Do List

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Microsoft's Macintosh chief Kevin Browne has responded to our questions. He urges users to contact the Mac team, providing an email, and suggests that Microsoft can't make much more headway with right-to-left support before Apple provides the necessary support in the operating system. Browne says that previous experiments with third parties providing localization have "not been successful".

Over the last couple of days we've heard from various sources that MacOS X 10.2 will include right to left support. One of these is reliable. But Browne reaffirms that Hebrew support isn't on the To-Do List.

Here's Kevin's reply in full. We also heard from Dov Cohen, the Israeli Mac user who sparked the AntiTrust complaint. Dov hadn't seen Kevin's comments, so don't regard it as a direct response, but both emails on the same subject arrived on the same day.


Apologies for the delayed reply, and thanks for posting some of the letters. I think they helped to illuminate some of the issues involved. While I can't discuss specific financial details of Microsoft's Mac business, I'm happy to respond to your questions in general.

We run the Mac group as a mature business in an established market, because it is not strategic to Microsoft's overall mission. This means we run MacBU like its own company that needs to serve customers and hit business goals - just like any independent software developer. We make a large investment with a staff of 150 people building great software for the Mac -- outside of Apple, I believe we're the largest 100% Mac-focused developer -- and I'm proud of the record we've established over the past 5 years.

Like any business, we carefully consider every project we take on. We spend a lot of time talking with customers, and prioritize what to work on by looking at which projects will benefit the most Mac users and fit with areas where Apple is focused. This approach typically results in good business decisions, regardless of market.

We currently localize Office in English, Japanese, German, French, Swedish, and Spanish. (MacBU does all of its own localization; past experiments with licensing out to 3rd party localizers have not been successful.) Each year, we examine available data on market opportunity and try to assess where Apple is investing. We compare that information to existing languages to determine whether we should change our list of supported languages. While we see some demand for Hebrew, we note that a much more widely-spoken language like Spanish barely recoups its localization costs. We also note that Apple invests mostly in the US, Western Europe, and Japan. We therefore conclude that Hebrew, with far fewer users than Spanish, would not make sense for us. As much as we'd like to support Hebrew, we have to prioritize.

Some of your readers have asked for better support for languages other than English, French, etc., in Office. Generally speaking, we intend to make improvements to allow you type Greek or Welsh in English Office, for instance. The Mac is finally UNICODE-based with Mac OS X, but the existing means through which apps access that functionality weren't done in a way that Office could support. We're working with Apple to get what we need in the system, and will comment in the future on our plans. We do not plan to add right-to-left editing specifically, since we would have to delay releases or forego adding features which would apply to a broader range of customers.

I hope this helps clarify our approach. The question you may still have is: what should customers who want to work in Hebrew do? First, they should speak to Apple directly. Hebrew has not been a priority for Apple in their Mac OS X support or their marketing. The more Apple focuses on being successful with Hebrew, the more viable it becomes for all ISVs to localize in this language. Second, customers should keep sending requests to us at mactopia@microsoft.com. We can't address every need, but customer feedback is an important part of how we insure we're doing the right things.

Kevin Browne
Microsoft Macintosh BU




Office 2001:mac actually has partial Hebrew support, but MS have done a great job hiding it (he sent you a JPEG with the Insert>Automatic Text menu that shows that MS have included Auto Inserted definitions in Hebrew, such as "ATTN:", and "To:", "From:"). We found that out a couple of months ago by mistake. The ONLY thing missing in Office:mac 2001 is Right to Left support. As I've stated before, and after personally speaking with experts on the matter such as Eyal Redler from Winsoft, the guys that localize all Adobe products to Hebrew altering the code in order that'll work correctly with R-T-L is a matter of 2-3 months tops.

Arabic is even LESS supported on MacOS 9 than Hebrew is (not to mention X). And believe me, they're desperate for a localized and enabled version of Office:mac more than us.

Dov Cohen ®

Full Coverage

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