Microsoft rules out Arabic on Tablet

Microsoft is not planning to offer an Arabic handwriting recogniser for its Tablet PC operating system for at least another year and a half, Middle East developers heard this week.

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By  Peter Branton Published  January 28, 2004

Microsoft is not planning to offer an Arabic handwriting recogniser for its Tablet PC operating system for at least another year and a half, Middle East developers heard this week. Speaking at the Microsoft Middle East Developers Conference in Cairo this week, Shiraz Somji, development lead for the Tablet Platform Group, said developing an Arabic recogniser did not make sense commercially. “The Tablet PC market that we are shooting at is the laptop market,” he told delegates. “If you look at the laptop market then about nine languages will cover about 89% of that market. Developing a recogniser is a huge effort. To do it properly for Arabic, we would need at least 10 to 12 million handwriting samples, and we’d need to set up offices in at least two or three different areas just to collect those samples. “We will probably reconsider this situation in about a year and a half’s time,” he continued. “It’s a very challenging problem and would take a lot more effort. The business impact of developing an Arabic recogniser is just not that large.” Microsoft is to launch a new version of the Tablet OS this summer, and it had been hoped in some quarters that this would see the inclusion of Arabic handwriting recognition features. Somji said this would not happen, but offered an olive branch to local sensibilities by pointing out that the refresh will make it possible for third-party recognisers to be integrated with the OS. “If a third-party should develop a recogniser it would now be easy to integrate it, before you couldn’t really do that,” he said.

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