Think in English, E-Mail in French

So you’re an employee in the evolutionary world of information technology
for a Fortune 500 company. Youre boss gives you a project coordinating with
your counterparts in France. Here’s the dilemma: while many of the engineers
speak English, their e-mail systems are rigged for French, which you do
not firmly grasp. The job requires you to exchange many e-mails via your
personal digital assistant, including important files. What do you do?

IBM thinks it has the
answer to break the language barrier in the form of its new ViaVoice
Translator software, which makes possible two-way language translation on
handheld computers from English to French, Italian, German and Spanish.
Specifically, ViaVoice Translator allows users to enter a phrase in one
language as text, and have it returned in another language either as text or
read out as speech. The application runs on Pocket PC and WinCE platforms.

The Armonk, N.Y. firm unveiled its latest tool to compete with an
increasingly globalized world Wednesday at the DEMOmobile 2002
convention in La Jolla, Calif.

Machine translation allows users to dynamically translate long documents.
Under the aegis of its Websphere Translation Software focus IBM argues that products such as its
ViaVoice Translator are important because more and more people are using
PDAs to download content from all over the world.

The news is also indicative of IBM’s broader philosophy that Internet use is
moving steadily away from stationary PCs to embedded devices. As far as
competition, Systran is a major
player alongside IBM. AltaVista’s
is also a leading product.

Although handheld sales declined considerably in the tech spending dearth of
2001, studies indicate mobile systems use will be on the rise in the future.
IDC estimates the worldwide mobile and wireless professional services market
will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 58.5 percent to reach just
under $30.4 billion in 2006. Interestingly, IDC said IBM is the undisputed
leader in this category.

Sophie Mayo, director of IDC’s Wireless and eCommerce Implementation
Services research, said the wireless segment of IT is far from mature, and
depends on the cooperation of the players in the wireless ecosystem.

“The major forces at work in this ecosystem are devices, carriers, system
integrators, mobile middleware, applications providers, enterprises, mobile
workers, and consumers,” Mayo said. “Each party is influencing the success
of the other, and interdependencies are numerous.”

Priced at $50, ViaVoice Translator can be downloaded from or loaded from a CD into
a PC and then synchronized to a handheld device. Users can download one
language pair, or all four. Text can also be active-synched from the
desktop, or from a soft keyboard or handwriting recognizer directly into the
iPAQ. It can also be copied and pasted from any text-based document such as
Pocket Word or e-mail. The translation appears as text, and can also be
played back using IBM’s embedded text-to-speech technology.

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