SOFTWARE developers looking to create local-language solutions will benefit from global software giant Microsoft Corp’s plan to localise the Windows XP platform in Bahasa Malaysia.
Peter James Moore, chief technology officer for Microsoft Asia-Pacific & Greater China, said Language Interface Packs (LIPs) in Bahasa Malaysia can be developed based on a glossary that is built to support the basic operations of the computer.
These LIPs can then be used by local companies that want to develop applications in the Malay language, he said.
Although the primary aim of the programme is to help students and those in rural areas take better advantage of computers, Moore said the same platform can be used to develop specific applications, such as that for electronic-Government.
“(Aside from being used for licensed software you buy in a box from a store), a government agency or a third party may want to write an application to support a particular function of a department.
“Software developers can certainly take advantage of the localisation supported in Windows to make that application support the local language as well,” Moore told Business Times in Kuala Lumpur recently.
Its local arm, Microsoft (M) Sdn Bhd, had on September 6 sealed an alliance with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka to translate and localise the glossary for Microsoft Windows XP and later for Microsoft Office 2003.
Moore said Microsoft has committed US$100,000 (US$1 = RM3.80) for localising Bahasa Malaysia, and the five-week glossary building process for over 7,500 terms, should end sometime in mid-October.
“We want to take this first step and check what Microsoft can do with computers to make the education experience richer. We will only then see what further opportunities that it introduces us.
“The first step is to provide support for the commands in the menu. Today, children are learning to use computers by knowing where the button is, they don’t know what the word is. I think it’s really important for education that the children would be able to use the computer in the language they are taught in,” he said.
He said Bahasa Malaysia is one of more than 40 languages around the world that Microsoft has identified for localisation of its Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2003.
“We want to say Microsoft is a good application to build your software applications on because the menu is available in the Malay language. In the same way, if you are a software developer and you develop in Windows, you don’t have to worry about networking or printing or different computer devices you want to connect because they are all supported.
“We are looking to reach out to language groups beyond English, German, French and Spanish, to enable as many people as possible to use technology. Therefore, the local Microsoft subsidiaries have been chartered to work with the national language authorities to conduct the translation work.
“Malaysia is among the first in Asia Pacific to take this lead, resulting in glossary for Windows being translated into Bahasa Malaysia ahead of her neighbours,” Moore said.
A similar effort had been launched several months earlier in Thailand, while some 14 languages have been identified for localisation in India alone.
“While English is the main language of business today, we recognise that it is not the first language for a large majority of the world’s population,” Moore added.
Microsoft is also spending in excess of US$6.8 billion in research and development of all fields of computing in the area of developing a language platform than can support the proper use of the language, not just an inaccurate direct translation.
“We want to support the proper use of the language, where the platform has the capability of understanding the whole meaning of the sentence, how the words should be ordered, whether it should be singular or plural, whether it should have a question mark instead of an exclamation mark,” Moore added.