Israeli Firm's Software Program Makes Computing Global

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

TAKING a step ahead of United States computer giants, a small Israeli company will next week launch a multilingual word processing program designed to make the communications revolution truly global.

``Accent,'' which can work in five alphabets and 32 languages simultaneously, is the brainchild of two brothers, Robert and Jeff Rosenschein. Kivun, the company they founded five years ago, is one of the fastest-growing of a crop of young Israeli high-tech businesses.

``We have developed a globalized word processor to satisfy the need for international communications,'' says Robert Rosenschein, Kivun's president. He says that puts his program far ahead of software coming out of what he calls ``the American mindset, oriented to only one language - English.''

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In tune with moves toward peace in the Middle East, the company plans to launch the first Hebrew/Arabic program in the spring, in a special ``peace edition'' of Accent. Accent, marketed as ``one world'' technology, is designed for use with ``Windows,'' Microsoft Corporation's graphical user interface for IBM computers and their clones, which has become a world standard. But Windows, as well as Microsoft's word processing programs such as ``Word for Windows,'' are only available in English or localized translations, such as French, German, or Italian.

KIVUN'S new product, due out in Europe next Monday, gives the user a taste of its intentions the moment it is booted up: The installation instructions come in English, German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Finnish.

Its menus and helplines are in eight languages, its ``spellchecker'' in 17 languages, and it has 44 keyboards with onscreen maps to accommodate everything from Finnish to Greek. With an ability to switch in and out of languages and alphabets in the same document, ``it is more than a word processor, it is a language solution,'' says Jonathan Medved, Kivun's executive vice president.

As suggested by its onscreen icon - the European Union flag - Accent's major target market is Europe, where multilingualism is the norm.

Retailing for about $400, the program is designed to appeal to international organizations, such as the European Union, NATO, or the United Nations. The EU, for example, has to put out all its official documents in seven languages, an impossible task on Windows without using seven different programs.

European business executives, particularly those working for transnational corporations, also are expected to find the new program useful.

And although Americans have traditionally been monolingual, Mr. Medved says there are potential markets in the US too: More than 50 percent of the children in the Southern California school system speak Spanish, for example. And there are more than 1 million Chinese Americans who might like their computer to talk to them in their own language, he says.

Six Asian languages with their own alphabets are being added to the program this year - Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Cantonese, and Mandarin. ``We can do things no American company can do because our internal architecture is geared to multilingualism,'' Mr. Rosenschein says.

The breakthrough that allows all these languages into one program came when the Rosenscheins were helping Microsoft come up with a Hebrew translation of Windows. ``It is absurd that computers should be hardwired to only one language,'' says Medved, who heads Kivun's marketing team. ``We think that as soon as people see there is a way out, they will stream to Accent.''

As a small Israeli company breaking into the international packaged software market for the first time, Kivun officials say they are not out to compete with the American names that dominate the world. ``Our general strategy is not to go head to head with the large American firms,'' Rosenschein explains, ``but rather to ... add the category that no one else has, which is the multicultural, multilingual aspect.''

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