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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Enabling a product to work across different locales - what is the need ?

Nowadays, in order to have a successful software product, there is a dire need to ensure that you release the product in different languages. You might argue that your main market is in the United States, and there are enough English speakers the world over to make your product successful. However, consider the following factors -
- Do a quick survey to determine potential users for your products in different countries
- Look at your competitors and see how many different countries they are sold in
- Consider the problem of negotiating deals with hardware sellers to include your software in their hardwares as part of OEM deals (they would want the ability to include the same software in their different country deals)
- The incremental benefit to having multiple language sales is more than the cost involved
- You can seriously cause harm to your image if you don't have a global presence. With an increasing percentage of people in countries being bilingual or from another country of origin (such as the increasing Hispanic population in the US, and the movement of people within the EU), it gets difficult for you to justify yourself as a serious software product if you don't have language versions.

Now, how do you actually go ahead with ensuring that your product can be localized easily and is properly available in different languages ?
Well, you do something called software internationalization; a process that ensures that your software application works in different languages and regions without having to make changes at the time of use. You enable the software during the design time to work with different languages, typically by adding something called language packs that allows the same software to pick up the relevant language packs, and in many cases, enabling the software to change languages easily during use. The engineering work needed to enable this to happen is a lot more complicated, and will be detailed over the next few posts.

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