Getting Started Globally
More than 600 years ago, a direct sailing voyage proved that the Earth is indeed round, although the idea was more widely known—or at least believed—before that time. Certainly, even the original voyage of Columbus was in large part an attempt to prove that there was a quicker way to India by simply crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Given how long we have all known that the Earth is round, it's hard to understand why not everyone is willing to accept that there is an entire world full of different languages, cultures, and conventions. In this age when the Internet is so popular, people routinely type "www" at the beginning of email addresses and fail to pay attention to what the first two initials stand for: World Wide.
Software companies such as Microsoft understand how important the worldwide marketplace is. They understand it because roughly 60% of their product is sold in countries other than the United States! Obviously the minimal goal of making sure that the software will work properly in other locales is important. As a rule, no one in another country will be impressed by a product that will not even work properly. Most people will also include the use of standard methods for representing dates, numbers, and currency as a criterion for "working properly."
Microsoft also learned a very important lesson at the same time that it learned of the importance of international markets. That lesson is that if a software product is not presented in the proper language and with attention to the cultural conventions of a given locale, people in that locale will not buy the product. Consumers will find a version that does support these features. This is true for up to 70% of people in countries such as Russia and Germany, and it's true for almost 100% of people in countries such as Japan. It is clear that you cannot just leave your product or application in its original source language if you want people to buy your product or application in other locales. The lesson is that you must be able and willing to provide a "local" version of your software if you want to successfully penetrate that local market.
Moving beyond working properly and speaking someone else's language (both very important concepts), there is a special class of applications that must handle multiple languages at the same time. Someone storing data in a database might well want to keep information in Japanese, Chinese, French, and English. Microsoft now supports multilingual processing capability in many of its Office 2000 applications and in its now-preferred operating system, Windows 2000. In addition, Microsoft supports methods for changing the user interfaces for both Windows 2000 and Office 2000 to other languages. Microsoft has managed to separate the default system locale from the users' regional settings and especially from the default system locale. On Windows 2000, these are three entirely different properties.