Response to Microsoft's clarifications that appeared on The Hindu, October 14th, 2007.

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Tue, Oct 16, 2007 at 1:00 PM


(Letter written to 'The Hindu' in response to this)


In its response, Microsoft has given a totally misleading clarification
that puts up a generalized excuse rather than deal with the specifics.
When the Microsoft's Director of Corporate Communication mentions that
they collaborate with State Government bodies and nodal IT agencies to
create local language interfaces, he does not specify which bodies they
have worked with. They haven't even clarified whether these bodies had
any expertise whatsoever with respect to the language.

The DCC further mentions that feedback was received "as is normal with
any initiative" when working on Kannada Language Interface Pack and adds
"all that has been incorporated". But interestingly, a thread on
Microsoft's Bhasha India Forum discussing the inaccuracies, shortcomings
and mistakes was removed hastily.

Microsoft Developer Micheal Kaplan's blog on MSDN Blogs (Microsoft
Developer Network) announcing the Kannada Language Interface pack has
long attracted numerous comments on the shabby state of Kannada LIP
(URL: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2006/03/16/552695.aspx).
Micheal Kaplan's reply to the feedback and complaints was just this:
"The feedback program is closed for suggestions at this point". Further,
there have been no detail whatsoever provided on what feedback Microsoft
actually received.

The Kannada Language interface pack for one is full of inaccuracies. For
instance, "Estimated time left" has been translated to "eDakke samaya
andaju". For Kannada speaking people this makes a hilarious read. LIP is
full of such erratic translations. Translations have not been done in
context. The level of translations seem to suggest that Microsoft has
totally ignored the feedback and neglected on quality.

Also, on our campaign we're opposing government's choice of Microsoft
platform. Whether the platform is Open or Closed is of utmost relevance
since the programs/applications are run on it. Microsoft itself claims
that it is irrelevant for the "most part" whether the platform is open
source or proprietary and thereby admits that it is relevant for some
part, and that part, we believe is very important. Especially on
projects where sensitive data is stored on those platforms. Spyware,
Viruses and Worms have pounded Microsoft's Operating Systems for a long
time now. Government data would be under security threat if they do not
further invest on programs that improve security on Microsoft's
platforms.

Microsoft's latest Operating System comes with DRM, the controversial
Digital Rights Management which virtually spies on the users. Surely,
the government wouldn't want its data being spied by an MNC from another
nation?

As per the letter of intent, Microsoft is providing consultants, tools
and the platform. Providing platform is synonymous to ensuring life long
dependency to the company providing it. Data migration, migration of
software to other platforms, standards is complex and expensive. Most
Microsoft tools are platform dependent and most formats they encode data
in have been proprietary and their license forbids the formats to be
used on other platforms. In India, the government is the largest buyer
of software. Microsoft is laying out a trap for the governments by
binding them to its platform. Favouring just one proprietary platform
could have dangerous consequences.

The Unicode Consortium had released a document as early as 2003 that
revealed linguistic details about the Arkavattu issue that has been
existing in Microsoft's only Kannada Open Type font - 'Tunga' (a Kannada
font shipped only with the latest Microsoft's Operating Systems).
Interestingly however, this issue was never solved in Windows XP, and no
update has been made available yet. Characters like 'mU' and 'yU' appear
disfigured on Tunga font shipped with Microsoft's Windows XP. Microsoft
has still not released the corrected version as an update.

Sir, We would like to add further that this campaign is not opposing
paperless office system of administration, but instead it is all about
creating awareness that better alternatives exist for the government
that also serve the interest of the public and the nation. The tax money
could then be put to better use rather than pushing it into the mouth of
an MNC.

N A M Ismail,
Hari Prasad Nadig,
Om Shiva Prakash,
Coordinators,
Save Kannada Campaign.
http://savekannada.googlepages.com