Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Predictions for 2010: Globalization Technology, Services, and Business Models

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The winter solstice is drawing near in the northern hemisphere, so that means it’s time for our annual predictions about the language industry. Here’s what we think will happen in 2010, with sharing, centralization, consolidation, community, and diplomacy as the most important watchwords for the Linguistic New Year:
  • Big buyers of language services will centralize their processes. In an attempt to streamline operations, accelerate time to market, and cut costs, larger enterprises will rationalize their language operations around central shared services, some living in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud. This centralization will stress all elements of the translation management systems (TMSes) that sit at their core, testing scalability, usability, functionality, integration, and reporting.
  • Buyers and suppliers will find that “it takes a community.” Driven by Facebook’s widely cited success in having the crowd translate its website, we expect online communities to sprout like mushrooms after a storm. Even language service providers (LSPs) like Lionbridge will create communities around their technology. We also expect to see some efforts crash and burn as companies experiment but fail to invest in the technology and process infrastructure, create them for the wrong reason (that is, just to save money), or fail to involve professionals for quality assurance and crowd control — the best practices we identified in “Translation of, for, and by the People.”
  • Buyers will focus on measuring quality — and some will share metrics. Coming out of the recession, many companies will see the opportunity to increase revenue and share in international markets. Linguistic quality in both technical and marketing communications will drive their success. We expect a big push for a shared quality metric, fueled primarily by high-tech buyers of language services who find that existing approaches such as SAE J2450 and the LISA QA Model do not meet their needs.
  • Machine translation and translation memory buyers will assess shared data. With IT-centric TAUS TDA leading the way, a variety of commercial, semi-commercial, government, and free suppliers of shared translation assets will fight for mindshare, data uploads, active users to download and rate quality, and reference studies — Asia Online, BigTM.net, EuroMatrixPlus, EuroTermBank, Linguee, OPUS, and translated.net. The big challenge for all U.S.-focused providers, TAUS included, will be to find users beyond the IT poster children of data sharing — Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle. Meanwhile, MT developers will focus their next-generation activity around core technology enhancements, easier integration with content management and LSP workflows, and improved quality.
  • Technology suppliers will consolidate, formally and otherwise. Look for partnerships and (and an acquisition or two) among TMS and translation memory (TM) suppliers, led by firms such as Across, Kilgray, and Plunet anxious to expand the breadth of their offerings via mashups. Meanwhile, many independence-loving LSPs will continue building their own tools instead of adopting commercial TMSes sold by competitors Lionbridge, Sajan, SDL, and Translations.com.
  • Language service providers specialize and fragment. LSPs will increasingly fine-tune their offerings to differentiate themselves from rivals on axes other than the generic duo of quality and price. Some will specialize by service offering (for example, project management, desktop publishing, or quality assurance), others by industry (financial, legal, or life sciences), and still others by a single language or a region.
  • The web becomes more worldwide with support for emerging languages. As the internet drives to its next billion or two users, companies will add more languages and mobile phone access (”there’s a language app for that!”)  to get there. Microsoft plans to add five more African languages. Wikipedia content shows up in 240+ languages for information consumers around the globe. ICANN’s multi-script support for top-level domains will make home pages in other scripts, well, homier.
  • Demand for interpreting services in Europe will grow. Our report on the European language services market showed that spoken language services comprised a small part of the overall market as compared to the U.S. market. Fueled by wording in the Lisbon Treaty and initiatives supporting individuals’ rights to receive interpreting services in criminal proceedings, interpreting services will grow throughout 2010. Expect to see more government tenders and increased competition in this arena.
  • The U.S. government demand for linguists will continue to surge. The Obama administration will place a stronger emphasis on diplomacy through effective multilingual communications in all defense-related, intelligence, and State Department agencies comprising the Interagency Language Roundtable. Assuming that ground operations in Afghanistan don’t eat up the entire budget, the U.S. military will dedicate more funds to supporting languages. The focus will be on increasing resources in surge languages such as Dari and Pashto.
Phew! That’s it for this year. How did we do with last December’s predictions for 2009? Find out here.
   
  • Company: Across, Asia Online, BigTM.net, EuroMatrixPlus, EuroTermBank, Facebook, Google, ICANN, Intel, Kilgray, Linguee, Lionbridge, Microsoft, Opus, Oracle, Plunet, Sajan, SDL, Translations.com
  • See related research: Predictions for 2009
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