Breaking News – a few days later: “Aha, SDL has bought Language Weaver! So what?”

by Elia Yuste & Manuel Herranz

SDL announced the purchase of Language Weaver (LW) on Thursday 15th July 2010. General media as well as GILT industry experts have spread the news in just no time in the form of newsletter updates, opinion articles in professional networks, blog entries or tweets. The news coverage has been phenomenal. Everyone has been asking about the why’s, the how’s and the thereafter’s of this financial move by SDL. We coincide with some leading industry analysts in that perhaps Language Weaver’s future will not be as rosy as it may seem. Perhaps it will follow the same destiny as Idiom once did, from market establishment to product support discontinuation following its acquisition by big buying father SDL.

As an independent LSP offering its own customized MT technology, Pangeanic is in a privileged position to offer dedicated client-focused solutions, based on innovative MT and, if required, post-editing (PE) services.  It also has a huge business opportunity as a result of this acquisition. Our MT technologies are domain-specific, customizable, inexpensive, and last but not least, we take our customers and their needs very seriously. We treasure our independence by not depending on investment or venture capital or investment funds.  This allows us to pick and choose technologies that fit each need, using open standards to make a no tie-up official company policy, whilst scaling from experience. Neither SDL nor LW are particularly popular for their pricing practices and lock-up licensing.

Customers may also feel disenchanted with the way these companies have operated so far in terms of data handling. Funnily enough, we discussed a rather controversial issue in this blog on the eve of the acquisition, alerting users of SDL Studio 2009 to beware of the way their data (or their clients’) was being sent over to Language Weaver’s and G-Translate’s servers without a proper formal warning. Many customers and followers of our blog have thanked and congratulated us for raising awareness in the translation community and letting the cat out of the bag about a practice which passes as a question to the translation environment user (the translator) empowering him/her about the ultimate decision on data confidentiality.  We were not aware about the SDL-LW deal was going to be announced 24 hrs later. Needless to say, we would write that blog entry today again.

Breaking news have to be covered as they happen, but they also have to be looked at after some time. In the last few days, many have asked themselves what the real reasons for this acquisition are: Money-making attitude above all? Wish for total leadership and overall industry control? Or rather an urgent need for market reassurance as SDL´s own MT technology was aching? In SDL‘s words, this acquisition puts them “firmly in place for ensuring the effective provision of secure multilingual content into the future’s digital age.” How is this statement to be interpreted? We believe the digital age started a while back, and so did Machine Translation. The question now is to democratize this kind of technologies, something that is well rooted in Pangeanic’s mission and that can be confirmed by the heterogeneous user palette PangeaMT caters for.  Whether this is to be found in the now two-headed (?) company being discussed in this article remains to be seen.

As for who benefits from (or who loses as a result of) this acquisition, it is not as straightforward as it may seem. We believe that SDL’s wishful industry dominance will not be as significant as they foresee. Other strong and rapidly consolidating MT providers will be in the GILT scene for many years to come due to their technology robust, independent and innovative approaches. True as though it may be that SDL and Language Weaver have served key industry players so far, SDL acquiring Language Weaver does not mean that these players will automatically profit from special cost reduction plans or similar benefits by SDL. SDL-LW solutions will most likely remain expensive and well above the budget of many user segments, including some of the corporate fellows that have felt somewhat locked-in with them in the last few years and may well end up running away from SDL (with or without LW on their plate).

Consequently, more and more users will gradually become conscious about other sound translation environment + technology alternatives. Alliances of less prominent but equally, or even far more, efficient and interesting MT-plugged in platforms will be on the increase, especially in settings where special customer care and needs, including proper sensitive client data handling, care for user/community base aspects, domain specificity, and last but not least, cost-effectiveness are of utmost importance. In so doing, inexpensive, customized MT solutions will coexit with free MT applications, such as G-Translate, and will even supersede them or be clearly preferred by customers whenever domain-specificity is priority #1, closely followed by secure data handling. Open standards, against locking-in proprietary formats, will continue to be in everyone’s mind. We don’t want to be the wet blanket here – but if SDL really wants to be leading by example, they should perhaps look at others‘ moves in relation to open standards and technology openness.

Our final word on last week’s breaking-news acquisition is that our industry is as vibrant as ever, with lots of opportunities for all those who believe in what they do and stick to customer-focused and transparent practices, without breaking anyone’s budgets.

Next time you think languages, think Pangeanic
Translation Services, Translation Technologies, Machine Translation


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