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TidBITS goes international this week, with news of a free Italian extension that activates the delete forward key on extended keyboards, the announcement of "Caring For Your Wrists," a file we distributed to the world at large for free to help prevent repetitive stress injuries, a report on the latest update to Nisus that makes it even more language-savvy, and a great article from Tig Tillinghast looking at problems with overseas software prices.
Copyright 1993 TidBITS Electronic Publishing. All rights reserved.
Information: <email@example.com> Comments: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It turns out that the Celestin Company mentioned in the last TidBITS just moved. The new address, effective 15-Mar-93 is:
1152 Hastings Avenue
Port Townsend, WA 98368
800/835 5514 toll-free
206/385 3767 main number
206/385 3586 fax
America Online: Celestin
National Videotext Network: pcelestin
Rumor Correction -- Oops - Pythaeus wrote to tell us that Apple's forthcoming active-matrix color LCD PowerBook will be called the 180c and will sport a 640 by 480 screen, as opposed to the 640 by 400 LCD screens we are used to on the PowerBooks. Why do I suspect that the 180c will sell as fast as Apple can make them despite a ludicrous price? The PowerBooks strike me the best answer to the "PC's are cheaper" argument. When it comes right down to it, the more-capable and thus more-expensive PowerBooks have consistently outsold the cheaper PowerBooks, excepting the fire sale PowerBook 100s, of course.
In his article on the Apple Adjustable Keyboard (TidBITS-166), Joe Clark commented that the keyboard product manager claimed that Apple's tests showed that no one uses the delete forward key. Fabrizio Oddone had a few comments on that topic:
It is true that few people use the delete forward key, but that is because the System Software doesn't support it. Normal people use key combinations when they are consistent. You probably use the command-Q key combination to quit applications. Would you use this combination if only one tenth of your applications supported it? Would you use the undo/cut/copy/paste key combinations if every application sported a different layout? The Mac has been successful in great part due to its consistency, and only some applications support the delete forward key.
If you use an extended keyboard, you will probably find my free Forward Delete extension useful since it enables the key in applications that use Apple's TextEdit routines. It is stored for at <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> as:info-mac/ex/forward-delete-10d2.hqx
[I haven't yet tried Forward Delete. Instead, I've been using Steve Stockman's DEL Key Control panel, which achieves the same thing most of the time by translating delete forward keystrokes into a right-arrow and backspace combination. -Adam]
Fabrizio Oddone -- Fabrizio.Oddoneemail@example.com
As you know, both Tonya and I suffer from wrist problems, carpal tunnel for me and tendonitis for her. Our special issue on the subject is in the making (special issues are a bear to get out), but we recently put something together for people who either have or are at risk from the same problems. Along with our graphic designer friend Jon.Hersh, we've created a double-sided page that you can post near your computer to remind yourself of things you know you should do to help your wrists.
In a slight break with TidBITS tradition, we make this file freely redistributable and copyable by anyone in any medium, commercial or not, as long as the page stays in its original form, though we would appreciate a message if you wish to place it in a commercial publication. We strongly encourage everyone to make copies and give them to anyone, encouraging them in turn to distribute the page. The point is to help as many people as possible.
You'll notice below that there are two files posted in most locations. The first is a PageMaker 4.2 file that you can download and use if you have PageMaker 4.0 or later and a PostScript printer. The second file is larger (and it gets really big when you expand - StuffIt Deluxe 3.0 compressed it from about 1.8 MB to less than 300K), but it is a straight PostScript file that you can download to any PostScript printer (I hope) with the free LaserWriter Font Utility that comes on the System 7 disks. If you use System 6, I suppose something like SendPS would work too. So, if you have PageMaker 4.0 or later, download the first file. If all you have is access to a PostScript laser printer, get the second file. Sorry, but the design and methods of distribution preclude us from making it available for QuickDraw printers (but see below).
We posted the files to various places, including the Macintosh Hardware Forum New Files library on America Online, ZiffNet/Mac's ZMC:DOWNTECH Reference library (#7) as TBWRIS.SIT, MAUG's MACCLUB Magazines library (#8) on CompuServe as TBWRIS.SIT and TBWRPS.SIT, in the GOODHEALTH forum's Issues at Work library (#15) on CompuServe as TBWRIS.SIT and TBWRPS.SIT, and on <sumex-aim.stanford.edu> for anonymous FTP as:
The front of the page... -- For those of you who don't have access to a PostScript laser printer in any way, here are the reminders from the front of the page. Print them out in a large typeface and post them on your wall to look at while you work.
by Mark H. Anbinder, Contributing Editor -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Macintosh Portable Supplies -- Macintosh Portable owners will be pleased to hear that Apple hasn't abandoned them. Mac Portable batteries are in short supply at most dealers, who understandably don't want to stock infrequently requested items, but Apple's latest catalog includes this hard-to-find item. The Macintosh Portable Battery (item B1023) is $39, and the companion recharger (item B1022) is $105.
Manual Replacements -- "Did your dog eat your manual? Or maybe you've just bought a used computer or other Apple product that didn't come with a manual." That's how the latest Apple Catalog describes possible situations that could lead you to need a replacement Apple manual. We've heard better stories, but we'll leave them to your imagination. In any case, if you need a replacement, chances are Apple has an extra and will sell it to you for $15.
Within the United States you can call 800/795-1000 twenty-four hours a day, and orders over $50 receive free overnight shipping. Apple's catalog does not provide a non-800 number for customers outside the U.S.; the ordering information says they can only deliver to U.S. purchasers, but I think you could have a friend purchase a manual for you in the U.S. and then mail it to you.
Apple Catalog -- 800/795-1000
Nisus Software just announced availability of Nisus 3.4, an upgrade from the current 3.06-040 version of Nisus. Although 3.4 includes a number of significant normal features that I'll discuss in a bit, Nisus Software is targeting users of multiple languages since Nisus 3.4 is the only high-end word processor that takes advantage of all the languages available in the WorldScript system, mixing up to 18 different languages in a single document (reading them all is your problem). That set includes right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew along with other non-Roman alphabets and languages from the Far East.
Academics have long needed multi-lingual word processing features; if you study another language you need to be able to switch back and forth between at least two. Such needs extend beyond academia though, since corporations have international subsidiaries or clients, and numerous governmental organizations work with counterparts in other nations.
Nisus has come up with two different editions of Nisus, based on the type of language. In both cases, you get the English dictionary and thesaurus and your choice of one foreign language dictionary (you can order more dictionaries if you wish for $30 each). Nisus 3.4L (Limited Flag) supports text entry in languages based on the Roman alphabet, including English, French, Finnish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, along with Japanese (including inline input), which will work with KanjiTalk or System 7.1 or the kanji WorldScript module that Apple has announced for a 15-Apr-93 ship date. Nisus 3.4L requires System 6.0.7 or later and lists for $395. You can upgrade for $20 from any Nisus version.
The Complete Flag edition of Nisus (3.4C) allows you to enter and manipulate text in all the languages supported by the Limited Flag version plus Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Farsi (Persian), Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Russian and Thai, all of which require special language modules. Nisus will sell you modules for Arabic, the Eastern European languages (Czech, Hungarian, and Polish), Farsi, Hebrew, and Russian for $45 each, but you get one module of your choice free with the Complete Flag edition. Other modules should come from Apple later this year.
Nisus 3.4C lists for $495, but you can upgrade from 3.06 or earlier for $120 or from 3.24 or 3.26 (which I believe were only sold overseas) for $20. Nisus 3.4C requires System 7.0.1 or later, and is copy protected with Nisus Software's PETlock ADB dongle. Edwina Riblet, Nisus Software's Director of Marketing, said, "We don't like it any more than anyone else, but our distributors in those areas won't carry the product without the ADB copy protection because of rampant piracy." Edwina said that the requirement started with the Korean distributor and has been echoed by Israeli and Saudi distributors as well others in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. She also noted that this copy protection is not new - Nisus has always been copy protected in those markets and Nisus Software doesn't know of any conflicts with any ADB devices when you put a PETlock in the middle of an ADB string. I'm not pleased about the ADB-dongle copy protection but I can't really complain to Nisus Software about it if distributors won't sell Nisus without copy protection. The root of the problem lies with users in those areas of the world. Those people must work to reduce piracy and convince the local distributors that copy protection is an unnecessary hassle, and only then will all copy protection disappear.
The people most affected by the ADB dongle are Duo users, who have no ADB port without a dock or floppy adapter. Edwina said Nisus Software is working on a solution, so if you use a Duo and want to buy Nisus 3.4C, call Nisus first and check on the progress of the Duo solution.
Even if you don't need the new language features, the upgrade to Nisus 3.4L is worth the $20. First of all, $20 is a thoroughly reasonable cost, especially since Nisus hasn't charged for the little upgrades like 3.06, which added XTND file translation (not a trivial addition). Second, according Nisus Software, Nisus 3.4 includes drag & drop editing, which has proven popular in Word 5.x, a Fuzzy Find that finds approximate, "sounds-like" words, an improved spelling checker, a user dictionary that you can edit like a normal document and add words to in batches, tracking, glossing (lets you add text above words for definitions or comments), a full-justified tab, the ability to open a PICT or EPSF document directly into Nisus via XTND, and a clock in the Information Bar. Hey, I'm updating.
Nisus Software -- 800/922-2993 -- 619/481-1477
Nisus Software propaganda
Edwina Riblet, Nisus Software -- email@example.com
by Tig Tillinghast -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Right now the cheapest software deals in all of Europe are just south of where I live, in Marlow, New Hampshire, home of mail order giant MacConnection. European netters writhe with envy every time some New Englander mentions having just picked up PageMaker 4.2 for $400. The cheapest deal in Europe right now is more than twice that. It should be no surprise then that American mail order firms like MacWarehouse find many people ordering software from Helsinki to Milan. Even after value-added taxes exceeding 25 percent and shipping that can be as much as $40, U.S. mail order firms consistently provide cheaper deals than any offered by a European retailer.
This point has not been lost on European netters. Unless you've been under a cybernetic rock, you've read complaints from the Continent about the evils of American software corporations. U.S. manufacturers have been accused of everything from conspiratorial pricing to naked greed to plain stupid marketing. But there seems a reason to the madness. And that reason may not have much to do with the software manufacturers.
"Prices for the end users are too high and the level
of service is too low."
-David Steiner; Vechta, Germany
Put simply, it seems non-American software consumers are getting soaked. Over the past six months, a rather large and random sampling of American-made software products sold from about one and a half to two times as much as it did back in the colonies. (The variation in relative cost came not so much from changes in prices, but rather from wildly shifting exchange rates.)
Also, several major American software companies are beginning to garner consistent complaints about a lack of customer support for European patrons. Even worse, when Europeans spring for a call to U.S. customer support, they are often turned away, told that they must go through their recalcitrant European distributor. One TidBITS reader from Vienna said he used his American parents' address when he registers software to guarantee decent support and cheap upgrade prices.
David Steiner, a researcher in Vechta, Germany recalled a time when he tried to get a question answered from Symantec's European office (Netherlands). His fax was never answered.
"We report bugs," said Jan Steinman, a Swiss who often tries to help clients find customer support, "and companies disappear off the face of the earth, or at least the face of Europe."
Many registered purchasers of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Norton Utilities and other name-brand American products still have yet to receive update notices for the latest software incarnations.
"The sad part of this," added Steinman, "is that, due to the weak dollar, U.S. goods should be real bargains these days."
Dr. Alan Hewat, of Grenoble, France, told of an experience where he failed to get any sort of a response from Adobe Europe (both offices, in the Netherlands and Scotland) until he finally sent back his original Illustrator disks with a nasty letter to Adobe's offices in America.
Adobe, as Mike Glendinning of Britain reported, also proscribes U.S. retailers and mail order firms from selling to foreigners, denying better deals to non-domestics.
Some companies do better than others, however, when it comes to service and prices. Dr. Hewat noted that in a recent French MacWarehouse catalogue, Aldus PageMaker and Adobe Illustrator both cost over $1,000 (this before an 18 percent tax!) while Microsoft Word cost $374 - roughly comparable to the U.S. street price.
When Erkko Autio of the Institute of Industrial Management of the Helsinki University of Technology was asked what was going on, he responded, "Many American companies are suffering from what I call the home market myopia."
He said that since U.S. companies have already determined that their home markets are large enough to sustain them, they "tend to focus on that only and ignore the international dimension." He went on to add that if the U.S. is not careful, its software industry might follow its car industry - into the red.
"To put it simply," summed up Autio, "some American software companies are acting arrogantly toward their European customers."
Europeans are not alone, however. All countries but the U.S. and Canada suffer from the same pricing structures. Frank Horowitz, of Mt. Waverley, Australia listed about 50 items offered in a Sydney-based catalogue. Americans buying from the very same company pay only one half to two thirds as much as Australians.
Judging from the frequent protests seen on the nets, people are beginning to take notice of the opportunities they are being denied. And they are demanding an accounting.
AN ACCOUNTING -- Software companies by and large do not charge different prices in European markets - at least for the original, English versions. For the most part, the mark-ups are perpetrated after they've been sent over the Atlantic.
Licensing, taxes, various certifications and so on add to the cost, according to University of Connecticut marketing professor and well-known network omnipote Murphy Sewall.
"In short," said Sewall, "it really may be more expensive to make products available in some markets, but perhaps not 70 percent more expensive."
Companies do spend a good amount of money localizing their products. You can't just use ResEdit to change all the words to a different language. Manuals and other documentation must be translated and printed. Multi-lingual technical service employees must be hired. This, however, fails to explain the entire price difference.
"It costs a lot of money to translate the manuals and other paper documents, but that does not explain why the English versions of the software I buy is as expensive or, sometimes, more expensive than the German one," noted transplanted American David Steiner.
Here's the low-down. Large companies have the capital outlays to create a national subdivision for a particular market - say Italy. This subdivision can then take advantage of the tax, labor and product regulation benefits given to domestic Italian companies. Smaller software companies, however, must hire a local distributor in order to compete from afar. The distributor, however, asks for rights to a monopoly for the product in the particular market since the market is so tiny to begin with. No monopoly, no deal. This creates a situation in which distributors feel they must charge a high mark-up because of their relatively minuscule market and the market constituents feel they're getting the rod due to the monopoly - and, in some respects, they are.
"Distribution monopolies undoubtedly drive European software prices up, either through waste or greed," noted a recent Info-Mac Digest contributor. "But, even in a perfect world, software in Europe would be more expensive than in the U.S. because the expenses are higher and the markets smaller."
SOFTWARE COMPANIES RESPOND -- "I know of no software company that charges a penny more for exported copies of software. In fact, we often lower our prices to overseas distributors," said Terry Morse of Fifth Generation Systems, makers of AutoDoubler and other utilities. "The real problem is that no other nation can compete with the U.S.A.'s efficient and highly-competitive distribution and sales channels."
U.S. manufacturers give European distributors identical deals to those they give the Americans, according to Morse. The higher prices come from foreign markups. "50 percent is the low end of markups overseas. 100 percent is more typical," said Morse.
Another executive from a different utilities developer, who asked that he not be identified, concurred, "The end-user price differential comes from the fact that the foreign distributors mark up the product a lot more than the domestic ones, mainly because they serve much smaller markets."
He noted that "advertising costs roughly twice as much per subscriber in foreign markets," and "there are costs associated with shipping, customs and the administrative expenses of maintaining an international vendor/distributor business relationship."
He also defended the monopolistic nature of software distribution: "Most international software distribution is territory exclusive. If there were two distributors in a territory and one does a good job of building the market, the other would lowball the marketing and support budgets in favor of a cut rate price and get the business generated by the 'good' distributor."
Finally, several executives pointed out that retail channels outside the U.S. are simply not as efficient as they are in the U.S. There is limited mail order, practically no superstores and a much less well-developed dealer channel.
Larry Zulch, of Dantz, was reticent to lay all the blame on distributors, however, noting that "the number of distributors going bankrupt is at record levels." Instead, he blames the "fact that the services distributors provide are expensive, particularly when the volumes are low."
Zulch highlighted the differences between domestic and foreign distributors. Here in the U.S., distributors rely on the software company to provide customer support and upgrade programs. "It makes no sense for a German end user to call us: not only are they likely to call at 2:00 AM, but we don't speak German," Zulch pointed out. "So our distributor provides tech support - in effect, they become Dantz in Germany."
"If the American companies do not treat their European
customers well, it is certain that someone else will."
-Erkko Autio; Helsinki, Finland
When pressed for a solution, Fifth Generations' Morse said half-jokingly, "Do away with borders so markets will be big enough to support large distributors and dealers. Do away with value-added taxes that escalate the price of software through every step of distribution."
More seriously, several companies are beginning to experiment with new forms of distribution. For instance, one company said it was experimenting with dissemination via loaned CD-ROMs.
"I believe that the end of full service distributors is in sight," said Dantz's Zulch pondering the future. "It has already happened in the US, and it will happen in other markets as well, starting with Europe."
Already Dantz ends up making less per copy sold overseas than those sold here despite the price differences. They sell products at roughly 50 percent of suggested retail price to companies like Ingram Micro, Merisel, and Kenfil who go on to take on the expenses of foreign marketing.
"US distributors don't deal with end users at all. For the most part, they rely on us to provide telephone support, run upgrade programs, and generate demand," noted Zulch.
He said we shouldn't be surprised to find those relatively expensive services no longer offered in foreign markets sometime soon. And, he adds, that might not be such a bad thing.
It's all a matter of waiting until the foreign markets become more like the American one, said Erkko Autio. "Achieving economies of scale similar as in the U.S. is what the European integration process is all about: to create an integrated market."
One thing European computer users tend to forget occasionally is the fact that most other consumer technologies are also more difficult and expensive to come by on the Continent. The U.S. simultaneously suffers from and enjoys a full-blown consumer economy. Europe is both cursed and blessed with a more producer-driven economy. Just try finding a 24-hour ATM machine in Mannheim, Germany and you'll see what I mean. Outside the U.S. Air Force base located there, it's practically impossible - as it is in most German towns.
When I asked an electrical engineer in Viernheim, Germany if he missed having a Radio Shack down the road where he could pick up most anything he needs, he replied rather simply, "But I can just order something and go to Frankfurt to pick it up in a few days. Why would I need that?" He simply did not perceive he needed the convenience. And because he didn't perceive he needed it, he probably doesn't. But other electrical engineers who do perceive they need that local Radio Shack shouldn't be surprised that Tandy decides not to plant a store in their European town because it doesn't see a seething demand.
The mainstream European culture does not yet perceive it needs immediate service 24 hours a day at cut-rate prices. Things then become particularly dissonant when Europeans gaze over the pond at Americans who get their software Fed-Ex'd to them 12 hours after they call a toll-free number and shell out only one half to two thirds the money. It's a great incentive to join the consumerism culture.
Unfortunately, barring a cultural revolution, it does not look as though many Europeans will be boycotting their fishmongers and tobacconists in deference to supermarkets and 7-11s. It's simple market sense. Software and hardware distributors simply won't feel safe trying to exploit the same market that can't even make EuroDisney profitable. Discount-minded computer consumers in Europe must either wait for compatriots to join them to create a large enough market or somehow figure a way to finagle software and hardware from America.
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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