Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
GNU is Not Unix Software

Open Source Software Serves Niche Markets 213

mahendra writes "News.com is carrying an article about localisation of OpenOffice.org. 'So, what's new about that?', you may ask. The article talks about the potential markets that proprietary software markets are ignoring. By the time they realize the potential, Open Source software will have made deep inroads into these markets..."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Open Source Software Serves Niche Markets

Comments Filter:
  • by Mike Hawk ( 687615 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:48PM (#8307951) Journal
    1. Localize software for small markets
    2. Give away software and make deep inroads into these ignored markets
    3. ?????
    4. Profit.

    I always wanted to do one of those.
  • by all your mwbassguy a ( 720029 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:48PM (#8307960) Homepage
    is openoffice available in esperanto? or, cu ie cu tie parolas la esparanton?
  • Market Size (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:48PM (#8307966) Homepage
    So how big is the size of these niche markets? Maybe mainstream companies aren't interested in them in the first place.

    And when these niche markets become mainstream, I am sure big companies like MS can easily enter these markets either by buying out or squeezing out.
    • Re:Market Size (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Popageorgio ( 723756 ) <popsnap@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:51PM (#8308015) Homepage
      Whenever a niche market becomes mainstream, it creates new niche markets. E.g., the Internet developer demographic, a niche market, is now a mainstream market with niches like Slashdotters, bloggers, and webcam owners.
    • The size of Israel. I didn't read the article, but I'm assuming the story is just a repeat of last week's story based on a new slant.
    • Re:Market Size (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dukael_Mikakis ( 686324 ) <andrewfoerster@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:00PM (#8308130)
      While you could argue that the strength of a company or a brand is in its scope, and how big its market is, many businesses have been quite successful in being very targeted to certain customers.

      Just look at Bentley [bentleymotors.com] and Burberry [burberry.com] who have very specialized markets and enjoy actually seek these markets, as seen when, if I recall, Burberry was upset when Ja Rule wore and promoted their products, thus giving them a widespread appeal and "cheapening" their product.

      Of course, the irony is that Microsoft products generally have wide use, large market share, and cost significantly more than OSS, so I guess the explanation is that OSS caters to the high-class "knowledgable" customer, even if it is not necessarily much more lucrative.
      • Re:Market Size (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hraefn ( 627340 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:07PM (#8308231) Homepage
        Apple could be seen as targetting a niche OS market, and generally making a nice profit.

        It would make me mad if Bill Gates started flashing a PowerBook running Yellow Dog in his music videos... er..
        • Re:Market Size (Score:3, Interesting)

          Apple could be seen as targetting a niche OS market, and generally making a nice profit.

          Yes, the prevalent stereotype, evidenced in, say, this comment [slashdot.org] is that Apple, and its OSs, are "high-class", "name brand" OSs, much like the Bentley or the Prada of the computer world.

          It may seem obvious, but simple supply and demand states that the smaller the market is, reasonably, the more that suppliers will need to charge, while the greater the consumer base, the lower the product will generally cost. Apple is
          • Re:Market Size (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hraefn ( 627340 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:44PM (#8308725) Homepage
            The problem I see with those economic anomolies is that they aren't really anomolies if you consider:

            To the average Joe Dell User, the perceived value/quality of Windows is quite larger than OSS, and will remain so for much of the near future.

            There is also a large, entrenched semi-computer-savvy population of gamers and "administrators" who insist on reinforcing the idea that Windows is somehow better.
    • Re:Market Size (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wurp ( 51446 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:13PM (#8308295) Homepage
      How precisely would MS (or any company) enter a market that is satisfied by GPL software by buying out or squeezing out? They can't buy out GPL code; if they buy out the main group managing it we'll just fork. And what company can, or wants to, squeeze out a product that is satisfying the market for free, or essentially for free?

      The obvious counterexample is the web browser, but that is a special case: it's a possible new open computing platform that could get rid of MS's computing platform monopoly, so it was worth spending lots of money to build a product they have to give away.
    • Re:Market Size (Score:5, Interesting)

      by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum.gmail@com> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:35PM (#8308585) Homepage Journal
      Computers are underutilized. There is no such thing as 'niche computing use'. There is just 'using a computer', and 'not using it', for some specific task, infinitely definable ...

      Less than %2 of all the people who could use a computer in their lives in some way (productively, I mean), actually do.

      There isn't really 'such a thing' as a "niche" computer market. I'm serious. There is 'general purpose computing' and there is 'dedicated focus computing' (embedded/etc.), and either model can be applied to any other science in the world to good effect.

      This idea of 'niche markets' is a Western notion, predominantly derived from 'marketing' and has nothing at all whatsoever to do with the actual facts of the technology, which factually has no bounds for application.

      A computer can be adapted and bent to any and all application; therefore there isn't a 'niche' for its application in any sense other than a Madison Avenue Spin^H^H^H^HMarketing Merchants arbitrary lines on a board. In fact, niches are arbitrary.

      The computing industry is still growing, essentially, at the same rate it always has. Computers are radically applicable to so many spheres of life that in fact the problem is not "if", or "how" to use computers, its "when" and "where". Pick a human endeavour: somehow, it can benefit from having a computer applied to it.

      That said, its my belief that the majority of computer systems in the world are still radically underutilized ... Desktop Computing is an utter waste of computing power, yet nevertheless, it is an application of computer science technologies which still bears fruit for modern commerce and industry above and beyond what was previously possible only a few years earlier ...

      This isn't going to change. As more and more 'niche markets' get discovered and 'covered', it will become pretty clear that really ... there isn't such a thing as a 'niche' in the technological sense. Only in the sense of 'control over it from afar', which is all a Madison Ave type cares about ...
  • by S3D ( 745318 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:49PM (#8307967)
    "The language spoken by most Rwandans has no word for "computer." After considering the use of an English or French term, the Rwandan developers created their own: "mudasobwa," which roughly means "something or someone that does not make mistakes."" Hmm, wishful thinking. The name sound good though
  • by Yoda2 ( 522522 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:49PM (#8307972)
    Ancient Greek & Latin versions of OpenOffice for l33t classics geeks.
    • What's funny about that? The Vatican still uses a lot of Latin, and probably has views on Microsoft. They might well want to do an OO translation. They have to find Latin equivalents for modern terms anyway. As for Classical Greek, it may have escaped your notice that it has developed into modern Greek. I guess a different typeface might well fix it (capitals only and the sigma is different.)
      • by Bananenrepublik ( 49759 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:25PM (#8308416)
        As for Classical Greek, it may have escaped your notice that it has developed into modern Greek. I guess a different typeface might well fix it (capitals only and the sigma is different.)Actually, the Omega (not the Sigma) is usually written differently. Classical texts have been written in minuscles for several centuries, so you'd also need them for ancient Greek. And you'd need even more than in modern Greek: where modern Greek's demotiki has one accent, ancient Greek (and the church's ye-olde form katharewousa) has three accents plus two spirits plus the iota subscriptum plus most combinations of the former three.
        • scripsit Bananenrepublik:

          where modern Greek's demotiki has one accent, ancient Greek (and the church's ye-olde form katharewousa) has three accents plus two spirits plus the iota subscriptum plus most combinations of the former three.

          FWIW, the Katharevousa is not the form used in liturgy, but the `purified' version created by the nationalists in the modern revolutionary period. (When my father went to school, they still taught Katharevousa, and that's what all the newspapers etc. were written in.) I

    • Re:Coming soon... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sarastro_us ( 745933 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @05:24PM (#8309280)
      Actually, the one thing that I've missed on linux is the seemless support for polytonic Greek Windows has. When I was studing classics at university, I used MS Office to do my homework all the time. In the last two years I've been running linux, I still haven't figured out how to get my browser to display the unicode properly, and there aren't (to my knowledge) any easily downloadable fonts to allow for display of accented characters.
  • Error 1 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:49PM (#8307979)
    Kinyarwanda, the language spoken by most Rwandans, has no words for many basic technical and computing terms, including the very word "computer," explained Steve Murphy, organizer of the project. After debating whether to borrow English or French terms or come up with their own native word, the group settled on "mudasobwa," which roughly translates to "something or someone that does not make mistakes."

    They forgot the "if it wasn't for those fucking developers or floating-point errors" part.
  • Niche markets? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FreemanPatrickHenry ( 317847 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:50PM (#8307993)
    Everything is a "niche market." The trick is covering as many niches as you can. That's why MS Office is so successful. Ubiquitous word processor of marginal quality? Check. Crappy relational database software? Check. Slide-show software with gazillions of incredibly annoying backgrounds and clip-arts? Check.

    Open Office, if it is to succeed MS Office, must be of better quality. Makign inroads into niche markets is fine, but if Linux zealots are the only people your making inroads to, it doesn't really help much.

    As for my niche, I'll use emacs, thanks.
    • Re:Niche markets? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Call Me Black Cloud ( 616282 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:07PM (#8308229)
      So what you're saying is OpenOffice is really not very good. Check.

      I use OO at home and Office at work and I find Office to be better all around. More responsive, more intuitive, faster to load. OO is adequate for many tasks but it's got a long way to go to surpass MS Office.

      I'm with you on the Emacs thing though. vi be damned!
    • Re:Niche markets? (Score:2, Interesting)

      I know plenty of people that run OpenOffice.org on Windows. I attend a (mostly) art school, and many of my friends are not the most technical. When they ask me something like, "I need powerpoint!" or "My word is too old to open this thing my teacher sent me!" or anything of the sort, I always point them to OpenOffice.org.

      I understand your point about "if Linux zealots are the only people making inroads...", but as long as we keep thinking that way, we'll just perpetuate our own problem. Go convert a friend
    • No, no, no, NO NO! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moderation abuser ( 184013 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @06:17PM (#8309962)
      "Open Office, if it is to succeed MS Office, must be of better quality."

      No it doesn't. Not at all. The only thing it must be is good enough and cheaper. That's all it takes.

  • Truth... (Score:2, Funny)

    by DRUNK_BEAR ( 645868 )
    From the article : "The language spoken by most Rwandans has no word for "computer." After considering the use of an English or French term, the Rwandan developers created their own: "mudasobwa," which roughly means "something or someone that does not make mistakes."

    True! They use non-MS products!! ;)

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:50PM (#8307997)
    Alternate solutions have always filled niche markets. The only real special part of it today, as I have seen, is that Open Source offers a free or readily customizable solution to what used to be an expensive problem to deal with.

    Mainstream software providers aren't generally interested in true niche markets. Growth isn't predictable and that doesn't look good to shareholders. Instead they concentrate on the masses, where their solution will work for a large enough population to make profit without having to work harder. It's simply better sense for them if they're market-driven rather than based around a central individual money-source.
  • by DR SoB ( 749180 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:50PM (#8308006) Journal
    The retail industry is just waiting for someone to put a CHEAP cash register with some major bank (credit card) support in it. The first person to cash in on this will make $$$! The issue is providing support to such some vendors at a price that's reasonable. Is this possible with open-source? Could it be incorporated with Linux to finally provide a cheap POS for small retailers, that they could actually CUSTOMIZE themselves? Time will tell, but most of us know the story of NCR...

    btw- POS = Point of Sale.
  • by IamGarageGuy 2 ( 687655 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:51PM (#8308013) Journal
    Could this be a type of viral OSS marketing? OSS is not going to have any marketing by definition, but this could be the way that it makes serious inroads into the mindshare. Be first, Be best, let the others play catchup. Sort of a perfect world MS approach.
  • by TyrranzzX ( 617713 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:52PM (#8308028) Journal
    Kinda difficult to meet the win2k minimum requirements on a toaster or blender, much less a new fancy electricly-controlled car. I mean, gee, you can't even strip out the GUI from that thing, Bill Gates said that himself. Mabye you can get rid of useless stuff, like solitare, or ppp networking options, but that only takes away like, 40 or 50 megs, and you remove the ability for your car to network with your laptop. Some people like using joysticks or keys to drive their cars, what about the innovation?

    Then you've got the EULA. Oh dear god, could you imagine how long it'd be for a car running win2k? No less than 2 miles in 4 point font no doubt.
  • by donnz ( 135658 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:52PM (#8308038) Homepage Journal
    OO didn't keep losing my dictionaries and for speal checking every time I do an aptget upgrade...

    That would make a big difference to its usability in this locale.
  • Girl Robot (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:52PM (#8308040)
    Does this mean niche applications to program my robot.... .....my GIRL robot?
  • Why? someone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:56PM (#8308073) Journal
    Can someone actually give me a feature for feature list of things the OpenOffice lacks compared to MS Office? Im sure there are many advanced things but what are they? For most areas tho - certainly the home, I cant possibly think of a reason to use MS Office. My uni has MS Office on all the Windows machines in the campus and i cant for the life of me think why, considering the only thing its used for is students writing reports and presentations, unless they got a special, and i mean really special deal on it, it seems like a waste of money, they could have bought some useful equipment or maybe enough bloody BNC connectors ;)
    • Excel Solver. Or at least something of that nature that will do that kind of optimization. Please don't suggest deployment of Matlab in a work environment like this.

      PowerPoint Pack-n-Go.

      and of course, Clippy. /me ducks
      • Re:Why? someone? (Score:3, Informative)

        by t_allardyce ( 48447 )
        Looks at his copy of OpenOffice...

        Exel Solver: OpenOffice Goal Seek (we have matlab already)

        PowerPoint Pack-n-Go: OpenOffice export including Flash export.

        Clippy: OpenOffice help (without stupid paper clip)

        Hows that?
        • Re:Why? someone? (Score:3, Informative)

          by lavalyn ( 649886 )
          Goal Seek != Solver

          Main difference: Solver constraints. Goal Seek can target whatever value it feels like, but if I need my variables to be "binary" or "integer" or "less than 5" Goal Seek doesn't cut it.
      • Re:Why? someone? (Score:4, Informative)

        by flossie ( 135232 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:29PM (#8308497) Homepage
        Please don't suggest deployment of Matlab in a work environment like this.

        Wouldn't dream of it. Octave [octave.org] all the way.

      • Re:Why? someone? (Score:2, Informative)

        by phiala ( 680649 )
        Excel Solver. Or at least something of that nature that will do that kind of optimization. Please don't suggest deployment of Matlab in a work environment like this.

        Except Excel is notoriously unreliable for statistics, and MicroSoft seems to be uninterested in fixing the known (for years) problems with distributions, linear regression, etc.

        this [practicalstats.com] has an overview and citations.

        If you need particular kinds of stats, a tweaked Rweb [montana.edu] server might be one option - set it up to run "canned" analyses on use

    • Try opening a passworded excel file with OOo. Or an excel file with a protected cell...Mine wouldn't do it, and from what I understand it never will, for some reason (clarification anybody?)

      Very annoying, as I was trying to find out what mark I got for a module last term, and the lecturer distributed the marks in an excel file, which had a protected cell in it.
      I ended up having to go into uni to check my mark, bah!
    • Re:Why? someone? (Score:2, Informative)

      by KrisWithAK ( 32865 )
      Last time I checked, you can't arbitrarly define x and y data sets for multiple series for use in XY plots for the spreadsheet in OpenOffice. This is an issue if you want to plot data such as multiple financial time series plots.
    • Re:Why? someone? (Score:2, Informative)

      by tomboy17 ( 696672 )

      Well, the new MS Office I've seen on XP machines handles styles beautifully. If you get a file that's been set up by a neophyte (i.e. without styles), opening the "Style" manager gets you a list of all the different varieties of formatting that exist in the document -- allowing you to effectively act as if there were styles there all along (the only thing it can't handle nicely is a situation in which the person has put a Tab character at the start of every paragraph; but in that case, you can at least easi

    • Problems I've encountered:

      Colors: To use a non-preset color (text, lines, etc) you have to go through the Options and change an existing one. That's just ridiculous.

      Spreadsheet length: Max row number is half of what Excel supports. Additionally, if you import a sheet that exceeds the max, the additional rows are simply ignored (you lose half of your data).

      Charts: Simply no comparison to Excel.
    • Re:Why? someone? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mgpeter ( 132079 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:58PM (#8308891) Homepage
      The only "features" that are somewhat missing, is a nice looking interface under MS Windows (see below), and a ton of pre-created images, templates, web sites, etc. (not that anyone ever uses these anyways.

      Something to consider though are the features OpenOffice.org has that MS Office doesn't. Such as, licensing issues, ability to create documents using the stylist (awesome feature), and IMHO once you learn to use OOo, it is actually easier to use than at least MS Office 2K (I never had the need to get Office XP)

      As for the nice looking interface issue, Ximian has created an awesome looking theme for OpenOffice.org, and I happened to create a theme based on these icons for Windows users. Check it out at my website [pcc-services.com]
      There are a few issues with themeing currently, such as not being able to use png files, etc. But these issues are being worked on.

      I am also starting to create some content for Draw that I will donate back to the project so it can be used instead of MS Visio.

      All in all the future looks very bright for OpenOffice.org !!
  • My first thought... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mongoose Disciple ( 722373 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:56PM (#8308077)
    Will this end up being the next metric system?

    I.e., where the mainstream U.S. goes one way (English or Imperial measurement/MS-Office) and U.S. scientists/geeks and the entire rest of the world goes the other way (metric measurement/OpenOffice)?

    Too soon to call, probably.

  • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) * on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:56PM (#8308081)
    A small team of developers in Rwanda was just beginning work on a project to produce a localized version of OpenOffice....

    This is why linux has flourished with developers. It was by developers for developers. This is nothing new, we know the difference, and are willing to make it work to suit our needs.

    Scientists seem to feel OK with Linux, *NIX, and open-source software as well.

    Its that damned 99% of the rest of the population that we have problems with :)
  • by segment ( 695309 ) <`gro.xirtilop' `ta' `lis'> on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:57PM (#8308098) Homepage Journal
    A small team of developers in Rwanda was just beginning work on a project to produce a localized version of OpenOffice, an open-source alternative to Microsoft's market-leading productivity software, when they realized they had a problem.

    A very good day to you.

    I am Barrister Barry Dapo Smith, an attorney at law. I was the Personal Attorney to Mr. Jarold Freeman, who lived in PortHarcourt, Nigeria for years, and whom hereinafter shall be referred to as my Client.

    I have a very confidential business proposition for you. On 17th February, 2004, we started developing open source products valued at US$12,500,000.00 (Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand American Dollars) Upon maturity, I was notified by the bank and subsequently sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply. After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from his contract employers, the OpenOffice that Mr. Jarold Freeman died along with is wife Mrs. Barbara Freeman in a plane crash.

    ...

  • by gspr ( 602968 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:57PM (#8308100)
    And now you told them? Moron!
  • by crovira ( 10242 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @03:59PM (#8308113) Homepage
    Localization of software is one of the easiest things to do *IF* your software is set up properly.

    Coming from Canada, where everything is in French as well as in English, I learned very early on (like day dot,) that you had to set up your software without any strings in it.

    By using only symbolic references and setting up a dictionary of text strings or icon references you can refer to any 'local' attribute without having to muck with the code.

    By switching the dictionary you can then switch the language that your users see without any performence hits and without any code changes.

    Furthermore, by laying out the text in ''plages'' and letting the dictionary fill in the details, you achieve a much simpler screen and.or prport layout.

    Debugging is easier too since you refer to the symbols you used for programming instead of whatever your users refer to (as this changes almost from user to user.)

  • Wasn't it part of the agreement that lead to Sir Bill's Knighting that Microsoft finally localized Office to Welsh?

    Must resist, must resis...

    I guess it was a deal he both could and couldn't Welsh on!

    just shoot me; I'm weak...

    ;^)

  • by psycho_tinman ( 313601 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:02PM (#8308155) Journal

    It's indeed wonderful that niche markets and languages are served by open source software.. Regardless of the language that people choose to use, I would prefer to have the same interface to work with each time. I would prefer also, to not have to explain why the "close document" command is found in the "file menu", when those words may not necessarily be familiar or easy to find for a person whose native language is not English.

    However, if the niche markets are small ones, it may make more sense for some speakers to adapt or learn to use the more common English variant. Interoperability is one reason why. The Rwandan effort in the article has 20 college students translating about 20k strings of text.

    What happens when a new version is released? Will there be the same set of maintainers ? Will the next version be supported ? If you're used to the Rwandan (or Finnish or whichever language) version, and you don't have language support in the next version, what do you do ? Keep using the old version ? Look for alternatives ?

    The second point to ponder for me is more an observation than anything else. Not being a native speaker of English myself, I was educated in another language. If I hadn't learnt English, then I would be forever dependent on translated texts to be able to use an application or read a fairly current technical journal or book. From an enduser perspective, it might be just be worth your while to get used to the English version as well, because the interface concepts (the File menu and so on) can be applied across many different applications, not just your localized OpenOffice.

    • What happens when a new version is released? Will there be the same set of maintainers ? Will the next version be supported ? If you're used to the Rwandan (or Finnish or whichever language) version, and you don't have language support in the next version, what do you do ? Keep using the old version ? Look for alternatives ?

      I haven't read the article yet, but I assume you send the patch to the OO team, and they incorporate it into the next version. Next time, 10 or 20 strings will need to be translated

    • From an enduser perspective, it might be just be worth your while to get used to the English version as well, because the interface concepts (the File menu and so on) can be applied across many different applications, not just your localized OpenOffice.

      Maybe a Rwandan user would be better off learning English. Until he does, he'll get used to whatever works in Rwandan, which is OO right now. When his English proficiency is up, is he going to say, "Oh boy, now I know English, so I can switch to MSoffice"

  • by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:02PM (#8308163) Homepage
    Is it possible for MS to use OpenOffice source, and come out with MS-OpenOffice, which of course is also an OSS.

    However, they also package this MSOO with a 3-year support and some other candies. So they can have the very same MS-branded OpenOffice which they can sell at the same retail price as MS Office.

    The only difference is the support, and MS brand is so well-known, most people and companies are likely to buy into it since it is now (1)OSS, (2)Very secure because of OSS and (3)With excellent support.

    Pretty much like what RedHat and Mandrake do to Linux, but MS brand is a lot more recognizable.
    • I think the BSD style license is more susceptible to this sort of thing. Ala MAC OSX. Plus MS will never validify linux/OSS by building something off it.
      • Plus MS will never validify linux/OSS by building something off it.
        1) The word you were looking for before you departed the realm of the English language was "validate".

        2) In a few years Linux will be more accepted on the desktop, and Microsoft may be forced to provide Office for Linux because otherwise their market share may start shrinking at a rate unacceptable to their shareholders.
    • But if MS piggybacks OO.o, they can't add support for correct MSWord unless they open up the source to that... they can't pull their favorite strongarm tactics, IIRC the Sun License and the GPL forbid them of playing MSOffice with OpenOffice. Besides, if MS decides to cut support for OpenOffice, you still can get it elsewhere, unlike win96 users who are told to go screw.

      And what's wrong with that? If M$ enters the GPL arena, they are most welcome. Free Software isn't about destroying the competition. It'

  • by globalar ( 669767 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:04PM (#8308183) Homepage
    RTFA, and this sounds like the classic investor-targeted article explaining why product x has an advantage because it targets the under-targeted market y.

    You do have to think about how much of a profit market there can exist for computers in a place where the local language has no word for computer. There is a reason MS is not bothering to make inroads in Rwanda. It's about making money, so MS is just as evil in this particular case as almost any other business on earth. We could apply this case to any number of products, software or otherwise. "Volunteers build houses in Rwanda, international contractors ignore upcoming market".

    Still, this highlights a difference between open and closed source. Open source needs a community, not a company. That community actively shares and extends itself.

    "Computer technology is seen as at least one possible route to lead the country out of poverty..."

    We can debate that all day. Needless to say, industrialization happened in most countries before computers. I would love to have computers without industrialization's problems, but that doesn't seem to be a reality.

    "It's one of those areas where proprietary software companies are fundamentally at a disadvantage because of their method of allocating resources..."

    They are disadvantaged because there is no money there. Open source doesn't use money, it uses people (volunteers). So money is the not the goal, hence money is not the deciding factor. We should not need analysts to communicate this.
  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:05PM (#8308193) Homepage
    Mcrosoft already make software available in Welsh, [microsoft.com]and have reacted favourably to including Scots Gaelic [wired.com], spoken by less than 60,000 people, in their language dictionaries.

    They do this by making those that are interested fund the development. For example the Linguistics Institute of Ireland [www.ite.ie] worked on the Irish Gaelic spell checker. The Welsh work was undertaken by the University of Wales and the Welsh Language Board.

  • Can a programmer explain this to me. How can there not already be a standard way to translate strings in the UI? What happens when they change the dialogs and menus around? How do you easily maintain the different language versions from release to release?

    Surely there must be a uniform way to handle translation of UI in other Open Source applications -- a single file o' strings to be translated. Right?

    Shouldn't be there be a simple way for non-programmers to help translate (not to mention proofread) UIs?

    • gettext already exists, and does most of what you describe.
    • How can there not already be a standard way to translate strings in the UI?

      Because it is not just strings. Most software also shows values such as "There are 5 objects". The 5 is a value derived in some fashion by the application. In C this would be:

      sprintf(buf,"There are %d objects",amount);

      The trouble is that the placement of the %d is very language dependant. So the localized version of the above would be something like:

      buf = get_lang(OBJECT_COUNT_TEXT, amount);

      Where get_lang needs to locate the l
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:10PM (#8308264) Homepage Journal
    This article doesn't hold much weight for me, on the very same day that I read in AlJazeera.net English that Microsoft are porting a load of their Office software to Hindi [aljazeera.net]. Proprietary software manufacturers like MS *are* in fact porting their software to lots of different languages. Some, like Magix [magix.com], even seem to only offer software in other languages like German (yuch)!
  • isn't going to be the deciding factor in which OS or office suite is going to be used. MS is quite capable of making substantial enough campaign contributions to influence the choices being made. You probably get more bang for the buck contributing in countries with lower standards of living, too.

    Open Source, I think, will win in the end though; eventually, the number of people using *nix, etc, will reach a critical mass, and it'll become more profitable to develop for open source than it will for Windows.
  • by Call Me Black Cloud ( 616282 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:12PM (#8308288)

    I guess this means I'll now be seeing nicely formatted and spell-checked scam letters from Nigeria, including presentations on how the money was tied up and how I can share in the profits.
  • by soullessbastard ( 596494 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:14PM (#8308307) Homepage Journal
    Disclaimer: I work on OpenOffice.org OS X

    The OpenOffice.org localization argument for serving niche markets has been around for a long time. A prime example of that is the Hebrew Office v. X incident. For me personally, however, I see OSS as a great way to provide competition in non-profitable markets such as office suites.

    It's near impossible to try to form a cogent business plan around making office productivity software given the current state of the market. Microsoft has office suite dominance almost as large as Windows market share, and may even be more. Most every company has created some type of workflow based on Office and has legacy documents in Office formats that may stretch back for decades. With the advent of Visual Basic for Applications and Access, companies have also been writing custom business applications coded to work only with Office.

    It's difficult to convince investors to pour money into a startup where you're competing directly against Microsoft, especially in a market where they've got the upper hand, established customer lock-in, and decades of software development. As an investor it's almost a sure bet that any money dumped in such a startup would be lost. It's near impossible to create a viable long-term self sustaining business with Microsoft as your competitor in a market they've already monopolized.

    Open source software doesn't need to abide by the standard rules of business. It doesn't need to create a revenue stream and find investors. It doesn't need to worry about being underpriced by market dumping practices. As long as there are starving (or subsidized) programmers willing to work on it and eager users, OSS can produce competition in a market where convential businesses would most likely fail. This is one of OSS's greatest strengths.

    Competition is at the core of evolution and innovation. It's comforting to know that OSS keeps open these avenues for competition when traditional capitalism fails. Hopefully this will help motivate both the OSS alternatives and Office to continue to improve and evolve.

    ed
  • by muckdog ( 607284 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2004 @04:15PM (#8308312) Homepage
    My company makes software for niche markets in the telcommunication industry. Our product extends the features of existing hardware that our customer would already own. Its a small enough niche that we have virtually no competition. That is also due to the fact that there is very little growth in our niche market. Even though I'm an advocate of opensource, I think if we opensourced our software we would lose more customers than we would gain. In the case of our customers, they likely would not care that it is open source, they would only care that it didn't cost them money anymore. If we had competitors and were in a growing market we could opensource our software and leaverage that as an asset over our closed source competitors.
  • Whatever software wants to support business communications is going to need to reach everyone or have open, compatible document types.

    Cnet has just announced Microsoft will release a version of office for Hindi.

    I think local (foreign to the USA) peoples are going to mistrust M$ and, right now, Open Office looks like the logical choice. The more people Open Office represents the more people you can easily reach in its file formats!

    If governments etc have to do any work to create local code to support th
  • Regions and language groups that don't have enough of a PC market now to justify development of proprietary commercial software will naturally turn to open-source alternatives, they say.

    I think that this is a very strong conclusion to draw esp. if you are talking of open-source. Open-source does not mean that you are not trying to give it away for free.

    The assertion strongly suggests that in the "localization market" there is a driving force for open source that lacks in corporations (esp. Microsoft). Something about this market attracts open-source but does not attract closed-(though now compromised)-source. I wonder what it is, and if something like that is really there.

    Is there some fundamental shift in what is driving these markets compared to what we think drives markets? If it is not profits, then what is it? Maybe it is about profits, but not about humongous profits.

    Maybe it is about being comfortable with decentralization, and not bearing the centralization burden of presenting a single face to the rest of the world - and, hence unflexible corporate-wide policies.

    Maybe it is about not being such a big target that it attracts life-threatening law suits.

    Maybe it is about so many people being able to pour over your "crown jewels" that you can now tap into the knowledge of anyone who is willing to look and tamper with your code.

    So, there there is nothing really of much to big and very big corporations.

    But then the article goes on to say that the same "localization markets" will some day draw the attention of Microsoft and others.

    And by the time those markets become big enough to draw the attention of Microsoft and other commercial software makers, open-source could be as entrenched as Microsoft is in developed countries now.

    But why would they want to do such a thing? Is the whole PC market going to change in such a way that it will become attractive for them. Or are they going to change in a way that the now find the market attractive. Will it happen? When will it happen? Will someone else come into the picture by then?

"The chain which can be yanked is not the eternal chain." -- G. Fitch

Working...