Our recent conversation with Jack Welde, CEO of cloud-based translation management software vendor Smartling, turned to Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish mathematician and astronomer who put the sun -- not the earth -- at the center of the universe. How did our discussion punch through the stratosphere, all the way to the sun, from Smartling's software in the cloud?
First off, Welde described some upcoming additions to Smartling's website translation platform that will allow users to intelligently handle markup in web files and to translate non-web file types.
- Smart handling of tagged content. Smartling will manage text with embedded HTML, an issue for translating between languages with different word orders. For example, while English prefers subject-verb-object, Russian allows a more dynamic sentence structure. Spanish usually places its adjectives after its nouns. These syntactic flips shouldn't be a problem for even the most novice translator, but the HTML for italics, bolding, or a hyperlink can be. Smartling's new feature removes tags from the text being edited and automatically positions them where they belong in the output window. This means that less HTML-savvy translators and the crowd can work together to generate output that is syntactically correct - and displays properly at the same time.
- Translating business documents. Most website developers find themselves processing Word and Acrobat files as part of their job. Rather than invest in multiple tools, they would like to use the same interface to translate HTML, DOCX, and PDF files. Dragging a Word file into Smartling causes the content to be automatically parsed and matched to an existing translation memory and glossary. Editing a complex Word file happens in context, with images and formatting displaying in the preview window as they would appear when published.
To be frank, neither of these features would cause a competing translation memory tool vendor any concern. However, what we do find interesting is that these two capabilities extend Smartling into the application areas typically targeted by traditional computer-aided translation (CAT) and full- fledged translation management systems (TMSes). Smartling's new features make the product more appropriate for a much broader range of multilingual applications and users than its current version.
That observation led our conversation to Copernicus. In Common Sense Advisory's research on translation management systems, we've long asserted that TMS software -- not the source content managers -- should be the hub of the content universe (see "Translation Management Takes Flight," Mar09). Why? A TMS manages translation memories, glossaries, style guides, and other linguistic assets for not just one, but for multiple systems of record and social engagement: web and document management systems, databases, and CRM systems, for example. All of these applications stream content to the TMS where it serves as the basis for translations and transformations. Individual content managers rely on other tools, but their company's TMS could serve as the pivot point, enabling them to manage their original source content with the same software as their multilingual deliverables. Smartling's emphasis on connectivity to other management systems positions it well for the role as the hub in the enterprise content universe.
Smartling's inclusion of more translation management functionality will only intensify its head-to- head competition with the traditional TMS vendors. To date, the company has targeted marketing and Web 2.0 applications, a different audience than the technical publications and support teams deploying systems based on GlobalLink (Translation.com), GlobalSight (Welocalize), or WorldServer (SDL). Given their importance to the business, buyers of those systems typically make long-term capital investments to support those functions (see "Pricing Models for Translation Management Systems," Feb13).
Where Smartling will bump heads with these heavy-lifting TMSes is in companies with fast-moving e-commerce or customer engagement needs. The challenge for many traditional workhorse TMSes won't be dealing with those technical document file types. Instead, it will be in managing the full array of business, web, multimedia, mobile, video transcription, and other content formats required to create a compelling omni-channel customer experience. In Smartling, buyers will see the emerging outline of a TMS that provides the transformative power to turn a wide range of content into a broad array of translated, market-specific information.
Smartling occupies a prime spot in the firmament. It was born in the cloud, offers a proxy server to simplify multilingual website development, and supplies an interface to connect to any software with an application programming interface. It also provides a global delivery network to speed up access for information consumers around the globe. The company has incrementally developed features and functions to make it more competitive in the translation management sector. As other TMS suppliers roll out new versions in upcoming months, we expect to see them competing with Smartling to offer more cloud, more connectivity, and more compelling global customer experiences.
Correction Notice: The original post identified Copernicus as a Prussian. As a matter of historical fact, he was of Polish nationality. The original post was corrected on March 14, 2013, at 12.50 pm Eastern time.