Microsoft today announced the inclusion of support for 15 Indian languages in Office 365, Outlook 2016, Outlook’s apps on iOS and Android as well as the web, Exchange Online, and Exchange Online Protection. The 15 languages supported are: Hindi, Bodo, Dogri, Konkani, Maithili, Marathi, Nepali, Sindhi, Bengali, Gujarati, Manipuri, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu.
In a blog post, Balendu Sharma, director of Localization and Accessibility at Microsoft India, noted that an English-dominated internet can be troublesome for a vast number of users:
"According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), there were 2.9 billion internet users worldwide in 2014. This number is expected to grow past 5 billion by 2020. It’s not just the number, but the demographics of internet users that are shifting over time. In 2000, nearly a third of all internet users were American. Now, Chinese users are the largest group, making up 22% of the world’s internet user base. While, American users are still the second largest group online, Indians are soon catching up – 8% of all internet users are Indian, and that number is rapidly expanding.
Currently, Indian languages are underrepresented online. Of the 447 different languages spoken in India, none make it to the list of top 50 digital languages. An English dominated web experience is less than ideal for these users."
It’s worth noting that while this support allows users to add these email addresses within Outlook, the company doesn't yet support the creation of an Outlook address in these languages – there’s no @आउटलुक (@outlook) domain, yet. The only way to create an email address in these languages is to go through a third-party service.
Microsoft's example of a Hindi email address in its announcement is as such: भाषा@माइक्रोसॉफ्ट.भारत. What’s interesting is that the माइक्रोसॉफ्ट.भारत domain name (Microsoft.Bharat, Bharat is Hindi for India) doesn’t appear to be under Microsoft’s direct ownership, and is rather parked by XgenPlus, a Microsoft partner in India.
In a statement, Microsoft India COO Meetul Patel noted how this effort would help eliminate the language barrier present for people trying to understand technology:
“Ensuring that language is not a barrier to the adoption of technology is key for digital inclusion and growth. Making email addresses available in 15 languages is an exciting step to making modern communications and collaboration tools more accessible and easier to use for all – something we have been relentlessly working towards. We’re making technology use the language of people, and not requiring people to first learn the traditional language of technology.”
If you happen to have an email address in one of the supported languages and wish to use it with Outlook, the process to set it up is identical to the one for email addresses in English; Microsoft has detailed the steps over here.
SpaceX is trying to blanket the planet with satellites and connect more people than ever to the Internet, while Google is priming to bring onboard the next billion users onto its services. This is the point when it also becomes necessary to accommodate for the multitude of languages that these new users will be speaking, and that's what these efforts are about.