RE: Multilingual Documents [was: HTML forms and UTF-8]

From: Chris Pratley (
Date: Wed Nov 24 1999 - 16:34:45 EST

Glen, nice theory, but the studies we did in Office (a document-centric set
of software applications, and rightly-so) came much later than any such
decisions made by the Windows team in the time frame you refer to (actually,
our operations are so separate that by default we don't share research). And
the Windows team (especially the NT team where all the action is) has been
pretty good about multilingual support in the OS from the get-go.

That said, when users write monolingual documents in different languages,
they do that on one OS, but also usually in one application, so it is still
a problem for applications.

I think the opinion you heard those years ago was more likely related to a
lack of research outside the US, a mildly incorrect assumption that non-US
users were basically US users using a different language (and English), and
a strong corporate culture aimed at focussing on "priorities" rather than on
"nice-to-have" things. I should also note that in surveys users always rate
multilingual pretty low, even outside the U.S. Despite the biases of this
mailing list to the contrary, multilingual is just not such a hot item in
the real world when you stack it up beside the web, game support, stability,
performance, etc. that everybody wants. In isolation, of course the answer
to "Do you want multilingual support?" is a fairly strong yes, but if people
have to trade it against other features, it goes down the priority list.
Food and shelter before movies and entertainment.

Also the standard argument I think most of us are familiar with goes
something like: A cool new way to do "X" language-independent thing is
always going to be considered more important than a cool new way to do "Y"
language-dependent thing, since "Y" necessarily has a smaller potential
audience. Of course the relative value of X and Y to their respective user
groups matter as well, but starting with a group whose size is known to be
less than 100% (actually, less than 50% since even English is only 50%) of
the users as opposed to a language-independent feature that could at least
potentially appeal to 100% of the users is a strike against from the start.
Anyway, that was the logic in the "bad old days". Thanks goodness we don't
do that anymore. :)

Chris Pratley
Lead Program Manager
Microsoft Office

-----Original Message-----
From: Glen Perkins []
Sent: November 24, 1999 2:36 AM
To: Unicode List
Subject: Re: Multilingual Documents [was: HTML forms and UTF-8]

----- Original Message -----
From: Chris Pratley <>
To: Unicode List <>
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 1999 6:04 PM
Subject: RE: Multilingual Documents [was: HTML forms and UTF-8]

> 6. Another point made by a couple of people is that you can measure the
> ratio of documents (as we were discussing), or you can also measure the
> percent of users who *ever* have to create even one multi-language
> This percentage is considerably higher than the percentage of multilingual
> documents, more like 10-30% of users as opposed to <1% of documents. If
> are strictly looking at business cases, then this is a misleading number,
> because a feature that makes a significant percentage of users' work
> is more valuable than one that makes a tiny percent easier. So measuring
> per-document makes more sense.

This document-based analysis may be the explanation for why Windows lacked
anything remotely similar to the Mac's WorldScript for nearly a decade,
telling me at nearly every trade show that "nobody wants multilingual".
Those in charge must have concluded that if there wasn't much demand for
multilingual documents, then there wasn't much need for multilingual OSes.
This ignores the fact that, as has been pointed out, most people are
multilingual. They may only want to write monolingual documents, but that
might mean English email to their boss and Chinese email to their parents,
responding in French to French clients and in German to German clients while
doing a project for their synagogue in Hebrew, etc. Those scenarios only
require monolingual documents, yet they require multilingual OSes, unless
you want to switch OSes for every document.

Glen Perkins

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