2006 is a few days away and I can’t resist looking into my crystal ball to see what the year holds for all of us in the Web globalization industry.
But before reading my take on the year ahead, let’s see how I did on my 2005 predictions:
2005 Predictions Scorecard
- Web Globalization Goes Mainstream – Correct
While Web globalization isn’t exactly front page news of The Wall Street Journal, it is now viewed as a key component for growth in the years ahead. We have China and Tom Friedman to thank for this.Amazon Adds Spanish for the US – Incorrect
Apple Launches iTunes Korea – Incorrect
These two predictions were a bit optimistic in regards to timing. While I still believe both will happen, it appears that licensing (in the case of iTunes) and budget (in the case of Amazon) remain roadblocks.The Global Gateway Finds the “Sweet Spot” – Correct
I’m particularly pleased to see so many Web sites positioning or re-positioning their global gateways in the upper right corner of the Web page. This was the year that many, many companies began to invest in understanding how users around the world find their localized Web sites. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but 2005 was a good year.
I got two out of four predictions correct — a .500 batting average. I can live with that.
So, with this batting average in mind, here are my predictions for the year ahead…
- eBay Launches eBay Japan
eBay ceded Japan to Yahoo! years ago but it can’t ignore this massive ecommerce market forever. Now that eBay is sinking $100 million into China it cannot afford to overlook the potential cross-border transaction revenues between China and Japan. Looking back, eBay probably should not have given up on Japan, but that’s water under the bridge. It needs to get back there and I think 2006 will be the year it does so.Chinese Becomes Number One Translated Language
This is an easy one. Chinese was already one of the hottest languages in the translation industry this year. But next year it will get hotter. I recently asked my newsletter subscribers about this and a whopping 87% agreed — Chinese is the “it” language in 2006 (and beyond).,EU used to host Corporate European Web Sites
With more than 100,000 pre-registrations, the new .eu domain is sure to make registrars a nice profit. But will it be a practical domain for businesses? I think so. In fact, we believe that by the end of this year a number of multinationals will begin hosting their European Web sites at this address. Few multinationals offer localized Web sites for every EU country, so this domain provides a nice way to “fill in the gaps” so to speak. It’s not a perfect solution by any means, but it’s a nice workaround.
The Large CMS Vendors Discover Globalization Workflow
I have long wondered why the large content management vendors like Documentum and Interwoven have resisted building globalization workflow into their products, instead choosing to partner with other vendors, such as SDL and Translations.com. The reason for this is that for years globalization workflow was not as critical to selling the CMS product. However, this will change in 2006 as the big CMS players notice that smaller players like Clay Tablet, Vasont, and Hot Banana are winning clients based on globalization workflow features.
Corporate America Discovers Machine Translation
I don’t expect 2005 to be the year that hundreds of CIOs run out and buy, say, Language Weaver’s statistical machine translation (SMT) software. But I think a handful of forward-thinking executives will take the plunge and I believe they will see a positive return on their investments. Despite all the inherent baggage that MT carries (some of it deserved), the demand for MT will continue to push innovation and increase quality, particularly along industry verticals. I believe SMT is going to be just the ticket for a number of large multinationals. As more multinationals viewed translated content as a competitive advantage rather than a chore, MT will be taken more seriously. Translators are in no danger of losing their day jobs, but I do believe that their jobs will change in the years ahead — and in a very good way.
Lionbridge Acquires Another Translation Company
Lionbridge has expanded production facilities overseas and will be doing well cash-flow wise next year. Now all it will need is more business, some of which it will get through acquisition. Organic business development takes time and Lionbridge needs to maintain a rapid growth curve. I honestly don’t know what agency Lionbridge will acquire but I do believe at least one services acquisition is forthcoming. So who will Lionbridge acquire? Companies that look like good targets to me include Welocalize, Simultrans, McElroy, Luz, Translations.com, ForeignExchange, and VistaTEC. The rumor mill points toward Welocalize; I’m not sure Smith Yewell is ready to cash out just yet, but you never know. I’d like to see the Translations.com acquisition because it would place Lionbridge firmly in the Web globalization space, but the price might be too steep at this point.
I got some emails about my initial posting regarding Lionbridge’s debt, which is sizable. But I do think the company will have a very good first half of 2006.
Full Disclosure: I do not have a financial stake in any globalization services or software firm. You can read Byte Level’s policy here.