If Cambodians cannot read English then it proves hard to navigate Windows, which is not translated into Khmer. This situation is unlikely to change if Microsoft’s rights to its programs continue to be ignored here, the company head in Cambodia said.
Microsoft is currently developing Windows 8, but does not intend to develop a Khmer interface until piracy levels decrease, Pily Wong, Microsoft Market Development DP country manager, said.
“What would be the use to develop a Khmer version of Windows if it is just copied?” Mr Wong said.
Cambodia has one of the highest piracy rates in the world at 95 percent so Microsoft is not motivated to develop Khmer-language operating system and applications, he said.
When asked when Microsoft would consider developing a Khmer version of Windows, he said, “When we successfully work with the government to bring the piracy rate down.”
However, Piseth Chhourm, technology specialist at Microsoft MDP, said that Microsoft is working on a Khmer-language version of Windows 8. “Microsoft is developing a Khmer interface for Windows 8, but there are no promises or official announcements,” Mr Chhourm said.
Mr Wong said that Mr Chhourm’s claim is mistaken.
Javier Solai, coordinator for the Khmer OS project, which is run by the Open Institute and aims to provide computer tools in Khmer, said that Microsoft would not see the translation of Windows into Khmer as profitable because in Cambodia there is not copyright on software. “They do not see any money in it so do not see any point in investing in translation,” Mr Solai said.
A Linux-based open source operating system called openSUSE, which is the only operating system to have a Khmer-language interface, is used by the Information Ministry and taught to high school students, he said.
As little as five years ago it was believed that Cambodia would always use Microsoft in English, but now the situation has changed and free open source applications are widely used, he said.
“Open Office, which provides free word processing in Khmer language is similar in quality to Microsoft,” he said, noting that it is not illegal to copy Microsoft programs.
Phu Leewood, secretary general of National Information Communications Technology Development Authority, said that the government had not been informed of plans to develop Windows 8 in Khmer language. “If they are developing a Khmer-language Windows they have not told us,” Mr Leewood said.
However, a memorandum in December required all government institutions to switch to the Unicode standard allowing them to display Khmer script. “Its important so that people can bypass the language barrier” to use computers, Mr Leewood said.
Var Roth San, director of the Culture Ministry’s department of intellectual property rights, said that article three of the copyright law only protects computer programs established in Cambodia. “Microsoft is not protected because the programming is done outside of Cambodia,” Mr Roth San said.
However, a draft MoU sent from Microsoft is under consideration at the Council of Ministers to improve cooperation between the company and the government, he said. “It includes helping Cambodia to with education centers for Microsoft programs,” Mr Roth San said, noting that the Commerce Ministry section relates to intellectual property.