Localization, Localisation

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Cheap Translation Tech: Who does What…and for How Much?

Posted by Nick Peris on August 24, 2010

Rolling out old tools

Recession-buster CAT tool prices? Low-cost TM Tech? Scrappage scheme on Translation tools older than 2 years?

Subscription-based software rental or money-mental discount on SaaS?

No, the marketing slogans in the Translation Software industry haven’t been quite that exuberant. Yet the cash flow worries experienced by all the Translation Technology providers, have generated a certain amount of creativity especially when it comes to pricing. So if you’re on the market for a new CAT Tool, you should probably ask yourself: “Where is the best value for my discount?”

Clichés about the dark days we live in abound (including in this article…), and it is clear that no one would part lightly with hard-earned cash to buy a Translation Memory technology license. The truth is one can get such technology for as little as €0 and about as much as one has to spend. This may always have been the case, but what I think has changed is that market leaders can no longer rely on reputation, exposure and existing market penetration to comfortably roll-out the next generation of expensive technology.

Differentiating by offering compelling technological advances is no longer a bullet-proof strategy either. There are plenty of talented tool developers around who are ready to offer imaginative solutions for a modest fee. Features such as mobile phone-like predictive text will not prompt anyone to spend thousands, or even hundreds of Euro.

In fact, mainstream TM technology with all its bells and whistles is facing a problem similar to that of the automobile industry: the multitude of options and gadgets inflating the price of applications with constant update and patch requirements has left the market wide open for a good value yet sturdy alternative.

Though it is not a complete answer, a low-cost market for TM tech is developing as a consequence. Freelancers, Agencies and Corporations alike are no longer willing to spend on expensive licenses to buy software which will be outdated within a year or two. So offers started appearing where the license itself has an expiry date. Pay for a year and then decide what to do: renew, upgrade or move on.

The concept of software rental was set to run further of course: complete with the advances in software hosting, Cloud-computing, where the users connect to the application over the internet and does not need to install or setup anything on their own machine, it became SaaS: Software-as-a-Service. This is a trend much bigger than the Translation software industry alone, which offers many advantages such as seemless updates and crucially regular cash-flow for the provider. It also requires an important shift in the mentalities where ownership of the tool isn’t transferred to the Translator, while the ownership of the translation produced with it must remain with them.

All this put together means that we may have reached a fork in the road after which licensing models will be transformed: but which way will they go?

    Starter Edition, Translation Workspace, MemoQ, Deja Vu, Across, Wordfast

  • the unglamorous route of feature-reduced time-limited ownership
  • or the controversial path of rental, or Software-as-a-Service.

Both options at this point show serious limitations. The reaction of Professional Translators could be described as luke-warm at best. On one hand entry-level traditional licenses are too limiting to users who already own a fully-fledged copy of a previous version. On the other software rental has not yet earned the trust of the user-base, concerned with intellectual property questions and confusing price structures.

The table on the right-hand side (click to expand) highlights the strengths and weaknesses of some of these subscription-based low-cost CAT tools:

One thing I hope is sure: the days of paying hundreds of Euro for entry-level licenses are over in our industry, and that has to be a good thing.

If you are due an upgrade, it is most likely that there are good deals to be had on your favorite software provider’s site. If you are looking to invest in your first entry-level CAT tool however, spend some time analyzing your needs against what is on offer. Entry prices may be low, but the value and limitations varies widely from one tool to the next.

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