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RE: International business communications and Unicode

From: Suzanne M. Topping <stopping@bizwonk.com>
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 14:42:06 -0400
Message-ID: <427F53DA8F48E9498ADF0F868763F88C028B7E@wonkserver1.bizwonk.com>
To: "Gibson, Emma" <gibsoe@vic.cpaonline.com.au>, <www-international@w3.org>
Hello Emma,

Apologies for the long delay, and not sure if I'm too late. But it
seemed that a question or two remained unanswered in your post. Here
goes:

> 1. Is Unicode the great salvation?  

From today's vantage point yes. But that depends on how far and how
quickly the technological world accepts and implements it.

> Could a business manager utilise this
> technology and build a website that would then be accessible to every
> country and culture 

Theoretically. But what would need to happen as of today's world is that
the website could be stored in Unicode, but might have to be delivered
using other character sets, depending on where it was going (what the
receiving machines are set to find usable).

>without needing local content providers/ 
> translators? 

This is a big misconception. Unicode has nothing to do with translation
of the text. No matter what coding methods are used, the text itself
still has to go through a translation process (automated or manual).
Unicode is simply the mechanism which provides a single method for all
the character sets which might be needed once translated text is
available.

> (is there a dummies guide?)

Unfortunately, I don't think there is. I've been dabbling away on the
Unicode fringes for several years now, and it seems like all there are
are genius guides.
(I'ts a very complex subject.)

> 2. Is there information on the Net about the impact of 
> Unicode on global
> business communication, with a focus on the human beings who 
> use it/ will
> use it rather than the technical elements?

I haven't seen anything. For the most part, "Real" people won't actually
use it. Computer geeks will include it in all the necessary tools like
word processors, email systems, web browsers, etc., and once the world
agrees that it's the way to go, the whole thing will work in the
background like magic.

It's getting closer to that already, with operating systems which sense
encodings intelligently, even separate from Unicode.

My own conclusion is that Unicode is something we talk a lot about now
because we are in the transition period of getting it established. Part
of that process involves competing methods etc. But as typically happens
with technological advances, one method eventually wins out and becomes
"the" way of doing things. I believe that in 10 years or less, we won't
even talk about Unicode because it will simply be the way things are
done. 

So again, I don't think there is really all that much direct impact on
the humans who are the beneficiaries of Unicode's usefulness. The
benefit is to the people who build, integrate, and implement
multilingual systems, and hope that they can communicate efficiently.

> 3. As the people creating and working with this technology 
> every day, why
> would you think it was essential for future business/ communications
> managers to understand its scope and potential?

Hmmm, good question. I'd say that if business people have to be involved
with ensuring that electronic multilingual communication will work, then
they need to know the basics. Data has to be stored, transmitted and
displayed. Historically, a variety of unique character sets covered
various scripts (several existed for Chinese, Japanese, etc.) Unicode is
a single set which can deal with all the scripts. In today's
technological world, it's great for storage, but it may not be usable as
a delivery character set, depending on the targeted users. So business
managers need to know what their storage technologies are, and what
their recipients have in place, so that they can provide a solution
which works.

Again, I hope I'm not to late on this, and understand that it's not
intended to be a technical description in any way.

All the best, 
 
Suzanne Topping
Vice President
BizWonk Inc.
(Solutions for a Global E-conomy) (TM)

stopping@bizwonk.com

25 N. Washington St.
Rochester, NY 14614-1110
USA

Phone: +1 716.454.4210
Fax: +1 716.454.4213 
Received on Wednesday, 12 September 2001 14:42:08 GMT

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