Localise or perish – perhaps that’s the mantra for today’s business. Media followed the rage and raised counts. Software is also not far away. Launching software in vernacular languages is quite in vogue since long. But, this time, the entire operating platform has been designed to support a local tongue.
Headquartered in North Carolina, USA, Red Hat Inc – a leading Linux and Open Source provider has come up with the Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 4 to support working in Bengali and five more Indian languages. The Linux Bengali version will include productivity applications like office suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool as well as a web browser and an e-mail client.
Demonstrating the beta version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux in Bengali at Infocom 2004 (an IT exposition, promoted jointly by Businessworld and Nasscom) in Kolkata on Thursday, Javed Tapia, Director, Red Hat India, said, “India’s domestic software industry resembles the TV industry six years ago, when the programming was only in Hindi or English. Similarly, today computers are predominantly used only in English.” The Red Hat Bengali desktop is expected to hit the Indian IT mart in February 2005.
The software developer was asked to submit the Linux Bengali platform in a six-month period. “We are happy to say that the target was assigned to both Red Hat and Microsoft but Red Hat has been the first to touch the rope,” shared state IT minister Manabendra Mukherjee. “We expect the use of Linux to go a long way in reducing the overall costs and giving a boost to our existing e-governance initiatives and education programmes,” he said.
For a software programme to be translated into localised format, it involves both technical and linguistic issues to solved in tandem. The Red Hat team for localisation assignments, operating out of Pune, works with the open source community in India for localising open source software to various Indian languages.
However, sharing on the business possibilities, Tapia said, “Over 90 million Indians speak Bengali language. Given that, only a small percentage of our population communicates in English, it is imperative that software is available in Bengali and other local languages.” Reinforcing his views, Mukherjee observed: “Given the fact that Bengali is the fourth largest language spoken worldwide, there is tremendous business prospect.”
Linux, as per Tapia, currently holds five to 10 per cent marketshare in the desktop segment and 25 to 30 per cent in the server segment.