Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CeBIT, Losing Its Clout

I think inevitably the influence of CeBIT is declining over the years. Undeniably, CeBIT is still the world's largest ICT Trade Fair but I just didn't feel like I walked into the cyclone of the digital world. It showcased a little bit of everything - a little bit of tablets, a little bit of communication, a little bit of security, a little bit of cloud computing, a little bit of social media, and a little bit more on business applications, but hardly was there any stimulant strong enough to excite me. The show felt like a weak theme song with disappointing lyrics.

CeBIT, a little BIT of everything

I didn't see much coverage of the 6 - 10th March CeBIT Hannover on any online technology media like TechCrunch, AllthingsD or Wired. In fact, the launch of the new iPad in Cupertino on 7th March, easily received more attention. And if I am not mistaken, there weren't any star products using CeBIT as their launching platform.

There were, however, old boys like SAP, Microsoft, IBM and Intel that played it big and dominated some halls, while new boys like Google and Salesforce tagged along halfheartedly with moderate booths spaces. In recognition of this post PC era, PC giants like Dell and HP knew their place and played a much lower profile in CeBIT, while other PC big boys had shied away from the show.

Many influential big names were missing from CeBIT this year, which made the show less attractive. At its peak during the dot-com boom, CeBIT grossed visitors up to 850,000 and pulled almost 8,000 exhibitors, but declined half for both to 334,000 and 4,000 in 2010. With only 15% foreign and diversified visitors, exhibitors might not get their target audiences easily.

Some says that CeBIT is meant for B2B and it is not a consumer technology trade show like CES in the United States. They continue to argue that this is a good platform for CIOs to meet up, to exchange views and sharing experiences. If so, CeBIT is indeed a very expensive gathering event for the IT guys. IT guys are a bunch of people that could find all their stuff over the Internet, and communicate to the right personnel online.  For example, if their company wants to implement Cloud Computing ERP, they would know where to look for the right solution, where to do thorough research and comparison, and where to get a free trial before making any decisions.

CeBIT is obviously more focused on B2B, but when personal technology is becoming the trend of the digital world, business computing has to rethink on how to accommodate personal technology into their offices. For example, when fewer PCs and notebooks were sold, we had no doubt that more and more consumer gadgets like tablets, iPad and smartphones are appealing for office purpose. Since digital technologies have become a part of everyone's lifestyle and the convergence with consumer electronics, smart gadgets and the home entertainment market, the line for personal devices and office devices can no longer be drawn.

I finally found this Van Gogh's Sunflowers 
in Pinakothek Art Museum in Munich 
To visit Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg is a bonus 
When Norana told me to forego CeBIT due to its diversified audience, we decided not to take part last year after our first participation in 2010. But being the largest ICT trade fair on earth, I was still pulled by its magnet. Hence, I came to see for myself this year as a visitor with the hopes to get a first-hand feel and figure out how to reposition or to blend ourselves into it.

My interest waned after the visit, and I had to agree with Norana to drop the idea to rejoin the show entirely. What can visitors expect out of an IT Show when the leading companies from Silicon Valley show a lukewarm response while China companies overwhelm the exhibition halls?

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Complexity of Translation

Due to my trilingual background, I don't read translated Chinese, English or Malay literature, I prefer the original languages. We all know that literary works and creative writings are the hardest to translate. It might not be so much the case of misinterpretations, it is more about the tone ended up feeling differently from its original version. To indulge in literature, unless you have no command of its original language, avoid the translated version, perhaps at all costs. 

Every language has the substance of its own culture

It’s simply because every language has the substance of its own culture; the complexity of the culture is even extended to the names of its people. For some famous Chinese writers who originally write their novels in English like Jun Chang, Ha Jin and Geling Yan, when their stories set foot in China, the Romanized Chinese names of the characters still bother me. Not only that they're hard to remember, the vivid meanings behind a Chinese name can no longer be discerned. It's the same effect when I read celebrity names like James Watkins, Daniel Craig, Tom Cruise or Cameron Diaz in Chinese, you have to sacrifice extra brain cells to figure out who is who.

We are lucky because our commercial products have nothing to do with literature. The language we use to explain our products can be very simple and straightforward, users do not need to read between the lines. But still, you simply cannot trust any machine or software or Google Translate to do the job; to translate accurately, human factor is crucial.

We have no doubt that translations and localizations are vital for business to compete successfully in the global market. According to 2006 Common Sense report that surveyed more than 2,400 consumers in eight countries, in fact, 52% of consumers will only buy something from a website in their own language. In France and Japan, that figure increased to more than 60%. We have to bear in mind that consumers who do not speak any English are six times more likely to avoid English websites altogether. 

Can you speak my language?

Customers would perceive companies that can speak in their native tongue as more credible, but that’s not the reason why we privilege translations and localizations. As we steer our practical branding in full gear, we don’t want language to become the barrier for our customers to understand and to use our products.

And for that particular reason, we are managing a large volume of contents for translations everyday.

Let me explain why our translation work is complex. We have websites, software, hardware, usual manuals, video guides, technical tips, training and marketing materials, voice clips and etc, and for some materials, we translate them to more than 10 languages. We also frequently upgraded our software and hardware, and improving all kinds of support materials all the time. The contents around the products have to sync with the latest upgrades, hence the translations need regular updates as well.

When it comes to details, we know that translators always stumbled at literary works and sometimes decided to rephrase the sentences to bring the gist out rather than translating them directly, the same might happen to our products as well. For example, when we created some usernames as the sample data in software user manual; translators would need to be reminded to create different set of localized usernames instead of using the same names for translation. Isn’t it weird for users in the Gulf to read Wong Ah Kow as a name even if it is written in Arabic?

To manage contents and translations more professionally, this month, we have promoted Nattalina Zainal to this new position, Content Manager, to oversee the market and support of FingerTec products across languages. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ