What happens when you land in a new city and you can’t read any of the posted signs since you don’t understand the local language? For most folks, they stop and ask the locals, but geeks don’t like human contact, so they invent technology to help them solve their issues. Enter Google. Back in February 2010, over two years ago, they showed off a version of “Google Goggles” that would translate any German text your smartphone saw into English. We’ll be the first to admit, it didn’t work all the time, but when it did … it was like looking into the future. Over the next few months more languages were added and character recognition improved, but you already knew that. We expect nothing less from the rocket scientists at Google. Anyway, today it’s Microsoft’s turn. They just announced a new version of their “Translator” application for Windows Phone. It does the Google Goggles trick, except that it works in over 30 languages, it has an offline mode, and it looks prettier. We’d tell you more, but we don’t have a Windows Phone on hand to test this app out ourselves.
Now for the important question: Is Microsoft going to bring “Translator” to other platforms? No. Which is a real shame and yet another example of the differences between Google, a company that provides services, and Microsoft, a company that sells licenses. Why bother doing innovating work if less than 2% of the smartphones that were sold in Q1 2011 can take advantage of it? Do marketing people honestly think that an app like “Translator” is going to get folks to dump their Android device or iPhone for a Windows Phone?
And Nokia is even worse. They wrote some very useful applications (Drive, Transit, Reader, etc.) that they preload on their devices, yet they’re not made available to other Windows Phone users.