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June 2003, Week 3 -- Translations

   

 

 

   We found a good translation service with terrible customer service. It's LogoMedia, a company that offers both online translation and packaged sets of disks covering translation between English and 14 other languages.

   We tried it online and the translation was fast and reasonably accurate, which is always a problem with machine translation. Costs run $5 a month for languages like Spanish and German, to $30 a month or more for translation between Arabic and English. The translations work in either direction.

 

   It is still true that nothing in the computer world beats a human translator, but if price and convenience are primary, this is a good way to go. If you want to purchase the disks, prices run anywhere from $100, for Polish/English, to $1,300 for a master set called "Magellan." This last covers 14 languages, including Japanese and Chinese and includes dictionaries for the translation of technical terms.

 

  The biggest problem we encountered was LogoMedia's pricing structure, which defied our best translation efforts. A call to customer service resulted in a heavily accented voice message telling us to state what we wanted to buy and to leave our address and credit card number; no mention of prices. I have to wonder how many of their own people would leave a credit card number with a company without knowing the price of a product. A second call, getting a human instead of a machine, got us a very hard to understand person who had to leave the phone to find prices and doled them out sparingly, our having to request them one at a time.

 

   In any event the disk package prices seem very high compared to the monthly online fees unless you figure on being a long-term user. You can download a 2.5 MB file which allows you a free 10-day trial of the online service, from www.download.com. LogoMedia Web sites: www.logomedia.net  or http://store.yahoo.com/logomedia-software.

 

Your store online

Yahoo Store

   We received a press kit the other day outlining a service for setting up an online store for just $400 a month. That's close to $5,000 a year, which raised all our collective eyebrows when we considered that Yahoo www.yahoo.com will set up an online store for $50 a month.

   Even more impressive than the 10-to-one price ratio in favor of Yahoo was the impressive list of companies and organizations that already uses them: the Guggenheim Musem, the Baseball Hall of Fame, NASA, Yosemite National Park, Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, Pepsi Cola, Stroud's (department stores), Crabtree & Evelyn, etc. You can design your own web store or they'll do it for you. You also have to pay a transaction fee of one half of one percent on total sales. Still, it beats paying $5,000 a year.

 

"Long-Suffering Commentary" on prices

 

   As you might expect, we get lots of product pitches from all kinds of high-tech companies and have been getting them for more than 20 years. It's about 3,000 pitches a year. So we've seen well over 50,000 products. One of the things that has always struck me is the wide variation in pricing. People will be offering what is substantially the same product at wildly divergent prices. Sometimes it's the same product that was pitched to us 10 years before. How can this be?

 

   Well, this is a business in which prices bear little relation to the cost of production. Especially in software. The cost of a ton of steel, for example, is closely related to how much it costs to make the steel. But I recall sitting in on a marketing meeting of a well known database company as they discussed how much to charge for their main product. The key issue was what they called "perceived value." In other words, it didn't matter what it cost to make the product, what mattered was people's impression of what it was worth. That's an unknown number, so the tendency is to push the limit. In short, cost is not the same as value.

 

Books

 Teach Yourself HTML

 

-- "Teach Yourself Web Publishing with HTML and XHTML," by Laura Lemay; $40, Sams Books samspublishing.com.

An important area for business. Almost every business has a web site these days, and those sites are becoming crucial for sales and customer contact. HTML stands for HperText Markup Language and defines how text is handled on web sites. The "X" stands for "extensible" and, as the name implies, extends the technology.

 

Games

 Enter the Matrix

-- "Enter The Matrix," for Windows, Playstation 2, GameCube and Xbox. The first movie was such a hit that game makers put out the game version for everything but the Macintosh. The sequel was just as big a hit, so the audience for the game is assured. Interestingly, players who ran it on game machines liked it better than Windows users. Web: www.enterthematrixgame.com.

 

-- "Viking Invasion," an expansion pack for "Medieval: Total War," for Windows. This is an add-on for one of the most acclaimed games of recent years. There is a fairly large audience for strategy war games, which bear some similarity to chess and are certainly not shoot-em-ups. Conquests require years of game time and much coordination between units and supplies. Criticism falls on the unrealistically low numbers of Vikings required to defeat other armies. Web: www.totalwar.com.

 

NOTE: Readers can search past columns on our web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com  or bobschwab@aol.com.

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