Right-to-left language support

13 December 2006

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This week was shaping up to be somewhat unusual, and then suddenly I've become involved in discussions with several customers about right-to-left support.

Let me provide some background. Our components for VCL and .NET do not currently support right-to-left languages like Arabic or Hebrew. It's not for want of requests: we do get a steady but quite small number of requests every month for this kind of support. However, for some unknown reason, this week I've been discussing our right-to-left (RTL) support with several customers, or more accurately, our lack of support for RTL languages.

It's not that we don't know what to do to support RTL languges. We even have a pretty good idea about how long it would take. No, it's not the knowledge of what to do that is the problem, it's our resources and how best to deploy them for the benefit of the majority of our customers.

Although we have a regular, but small, rate of requests for RTL support in our components, it is dwarfed by the number of requests we get for other functionality and enhancements. When we make decisions about what we should do in future versions of our subscriptions we have to take this groundswell of opinion into account.

In short, because we have limited development resources for enhancing our components, we must deploy them in such a way to maximize our revenues from their work. This is a pure business decision for us. And that, unfortunately, means RTL support is just not high priority -- the majority of our customers would prefer we enhance our components in other areas and directions.

Now, it could be argued that we would get new customers if we had RTL support. I don't doubt it in the least (and the Middle East, where the majority of RTL languages are used, does have a large proprtion of the world's population, hence presumably a need for RTL UI controls), but given the small interest we've seen, I don't think we'd recoup our investment very quickly compared with other strategies for developing our product line.

However, we do sell our products worldwide. So, let me ask you... Are you ignoring our components because we don't have RTL support? Are you going to be marketing your products to the Middle East soon, in which case you'll be needing RTL support sooner? Would you ignore RTL support because your main markets use Latin or Cyrillic alphabets? Any other comments?

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