The TAUS Executive Forum in Edinburgh (March 25-27) was another milestone event. "One of the best conferences I have attended in my 15 years in business..," commented one of the attendees. The two days of meetings were attended by 50 decision makers representing the buy and the sell side of the market in equal proportions. On the agenda was the design of the localization future. The program was carefully prepared by a committee with representatives from some of the leading IT companies. They had called for proposals for truly Open Translation Platforms. Out of 15 companies submitting proposals 8 were invited to present in Edinburgh. What made this TAUS Executive Forum so special was the genuine openness to change. "Innovation in the localization industry started right here in Edinburgh."
Innovation had been on the TAUS agenda before (Executive Forum in Brussels, November 2007), but then the discussions dissolved into a confirmation of the status quo. Following this first innovation forum TAUS published a White Paper on Localization Business Innovation (March 2008) outlining eight scenarios for change. The goal: meet the ever-increasing demands for translation in a global open society. This White Paper helped to focus the proposals and the discussions in Edinburgh. There was no disagreement that the translation industry needs openness. The government and IT representatives left no doubt in their panel discussions that their future translation needs can only be served if technologies and services from multiple sources and vendors are fully integrated. Proprietary and closed service models have no future. This time the status quo tumbled, leaving the participants in anxiety. Uncertainty about business models and the road to change were accepted as a fruitful outcome of the discussions. The group agreed on a number of pointers for the next TAUS event: the User Conference in Portland, October 27-30.
Videos of the presentations are available for members on the TAUS web site. Click on the highlighted names in the article to link directly to the videos. This article provides a brief meeting overview.
Open Translation Platforms
"Open, open." Open-source as well as open to interact and integrate. This was the red line throughout the presentations from vendors.
Lionbridge announced that it will open Logoport and Freeway to other vendors. Lionbridge is betting the future on the Software-as-a-Service model ensuring greater connectivity of its technology with the outside world. Focus is on the long tail of languages and pricing based on the value of words. Pricing and market strategy of the open Lionbridge SaaS model is to be announced later this year.
SDL announced that it will connect all its translation tools through open APIs to the cloud of industry-shared translation memories in the TAUS Data Association (TDA). SDL claims to have 80% share of the market of translation desktops. Support of industry-shared language data repositories such as TDA is heralded by the industry community. SDL also presented its migration plan to the SDL Common Enterprise Application Framework, where all SDL translation and authoring tools will work seamlessly together.
Translated.net from Rome was one company that paid particular interest to the open API announcement from SDL. Translated surprised the audience with the amount of work a small company can do. The Translated.net platform offers industry-shared web-based TM (1 billion words), integration of MT (open source Moses SMT among others), a community-translation model (translators are important contributors to the shared TMs), and the APIs are published! To respond to IP concerns, Translated allows users to limit access to private groups and to filter proper nouns. Innovation in optima forma.
Globalsight and Moravia emphasized the fact that their software is truly open source. Moravia in a conceptual sense: the R&D team at Moravia designs the open translation architecture based on Tiny TM (the open source TM system originated by Frank Bergmann) and a new proposed standard for Computer Aided L10N Project Management System (CALPMS). This standard will allow Moravia to integrate with localization workflow tools, such as ]project open[, LTC Worx, Plunet. Since the Globalsight open source project was launched in January, the software has been downloaded 700 times. Integration with Content Management Systems such as Teamsite and Documentum has been completed. On the agenda is now integration of business intelligence features and machine translation.
Talking open source, Eleka surprised the Edinburgh meeting with an open source Rule-Based MT system from the Basque country, called Opentrad, now covering the languages Catalan, Galician, Spanish, French, Basque, based on two different but coordinated designs. The first is Apertium, a shallow-transfer MT engine for related languages. The second is Matxin, a deeper-transfer MT engine for non-related languages, currently used for es-eu and en-eu pairs. Both architectures share some of the components: modules, data formats and compilers. They have a GNU GPL licence and can be downloaded from SourceForge. Opentrad is a collaboration platform between several Spanish universities and SMEs. Given the fact that the popularity of the Moses open source SMT engine is rising among smaller language service providers (Pangeanic and Translated.net), we expect that Opentrad will be ‘discovered' by the translation industry as well. Especially since linguistically trained staff are in general more attracted by rule-based MT systems than by statistical MT.
Asia Online represented the world of SMT in the Edinburgh meeting. The complexity and power of the SMT engine is nicely hidden behind a rich and friendly user interface, offering the translation professional unique features, such as data cleaning and preparation tools, on demand SMT engine development, support for both user created and online dictionaries and glossaries, ability to pool data for greater leverage, multiple level domain support and collaborative post-editing environment. Asia Online offers its SMT services in a pure SaaS model. The company's business is built on two pillars. In addition to the offering of SMT services, Asia Online positions itself as a portal and social networking style services company in Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and China, Japan and Korea, seeking revenues from online advertisers.
Lingotek presented its platform for collaborative translation, sparkling the audience's imagination about the introduction of social networking dynamics into the business of translation, such as group voting and review and genuine sharing of translation resources. Just like Translated.net Lingotek allows users to define private vaults and shareable data. Lingotek has booked its early successes with private vaults in the US government and security agencies, and is now looking to roll out its genuine open translation platform into commercial enterprises.
The design of localization futures is not privileged to the vendors in the translation industry, as evidenced by one unique presentation made by Adobe at the Edinburgh Forum. Adobe is building community translation into its applications, allowing loyal customers to go into the actual software interface and translate the user interface.
Localization Business Innovation
In his opening presentation Jaap van der Meer outlined the TAUS perspective from its original focus on translation automation to a strategic agenda for the global translation industry focusing on eight scenarios for change. TAUS is driving the industry agenda towards collaboration, innovation and automation in line with market demands. The Edinburgh Forum opened with a panel of government representatives and a panel of IT industry representatives. Both panels emphasized the pressure of more for less. The European Commission as the largest translation entity in the world (with a budget of approximately € 1 billion), although a long-time user of MT, stressed that quality remains more important than time-to-market. The EC is looking closer at in-segment leveraging (see TAUS Report on Advanced Leveraging) as a way to increase translator productivity. The EC believes in the power of scale when it comes to language data sharing. EC translation memories are also shared in the TDA platform. As citizens will be looking more and more at self-service on government portals, the EC is also facing the challenges of real-time translation. The International Monetary Fund is going through a major shift from internal translation resources to 75% outsourcing, putting pressure on the management team to centralize its workflow and translation resources, as well as the integration with the document management systems. IMF is also open to language data sharing through TDA. Gilles Martel, TDA Board member and just retired from the Canada Translation Bureau shared the picture of the ideal architecture for most efficient translation, an architecture that accesses multiple MT boxes, shared TM, greater social participation, all aimed at much faster turnaround than is possible today.
The panel of IT representatives perhaps disillusioned many of the providers in the group by stressing once again that translation is looked at as just a utility, a cost of doing business. Therefore efficiency is all what it's about. So much for value-based pricing .... Dell confirmed the TAUS projection of localization and support convergence by expressing the need for greater consistency in terminology with the customer support division. Oracle presented the picture of translation integration on an enterprise level. EMC shared its wish list including suggestions for vendors to focus on language data cleaning, data sharing and the suggestion that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to MT. McAfee sees its model changing toward a language-on-demand service, moving from 30 to over 70 languages. Symantec worked on a differentiation in quality and user demand with matching translation processes. Automation is is key to the Symantec approach. Microsoft reassured the participants that partnership and simplicity form the key towards realizing the necessary efficiency improvements.
Issues and actions
The intensity and openness of the presentations and discussions at the TAUS Forum in Edinburgh opened up new questions around the sustainability of traditional translation business models. Is word-based pricing not hopelessly out-of-date? How can multi-language vendors best adapt their value proposition in this rapidly changing landscape. And where is the business for MT developers? We see this strange paradox of on the one hand a rapidly increasing interest in MT, and on the other hand free MT for all on the internet. In six break-out groups participants discussed the effects of industry changes on their business. The results of these break-outs are work-in-progress and form a framework for the current market research undertaken by TAUS. We are taking the action to stimulate new insights and ideas in preparation of the TAUS User Conference in Portland (October 27-30).
Lessons in Innovation
The warming-up to this exiting forum was facilitated by Greg Oxton, the president of the Consortium for Service Innovation. In a playful mini-workshop Greg managed to get the message across that innovation is not the result of an intelligent brain doing an invention. Innovation is passion, collaboration, alignment, and innovation is never going to happen unless customers really want it. Some hands-on lessons that participants took home. TAUS works together with the Consortium for Service Innovation in organizing the joint Global Support Summits.
State-of-the-art in SMT and SMT Training
Philipp Koehn joined the TAUS forum as an invited speaker to share his views of state-of-the-art in SMT and SMT training. As the scientific coordinator of the EuromatrixPlus project Philipp shared some insights on what it takes to develop engines between 22 different EU languages and to be successful in training domain-specific high-performance MT engines. His full presentation is available for TAUS members. See also the TAUS Technical Guide to SMT Training.
TDA Release 1 launched
Last but not least, the TAUS Forum in Edinburgh marked the launch of release 1 of the TAUS Data Association. Exactly two years after the idea was born at a TAUS Executive Forum in Taos, New Mexico, the full suite of language data exchange services are available to members. Yan Yu, the development director, demonstrated the TM sharing and data pooling services as well as the public Language Search. In the closing remarks of the Edinburgh Forum most participants agreed that TDA offers both a practical way to increase translation efficiency and a strategic way to drive innovation in the global translation industry.