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Google developing hosted translation, video tools

Company hopes to let users add features to collaboration tools like e-mail, instant messaging

By Brian Fonseca
March 25, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Google Inc. is developing applications for instant language translation and video tools that it hopes to add to its hosted services offerings, a company executive disclosed.

In a recent interview with Computerworld, Matt Glotzbach, Google's director of product management for Enterprise, said researchers at the firm are working on technology that would enable rapid electronic language translation. The tool would pool data from Google's massive content repository to help translate languages in real time for users of its instant messaging and e-mail offerings, he said.

Additionally, he said the search provider is also looking to develop interactive video tools to augment internal training programs and to serve as a hosted alternative to pricey videoconferencing software.

Glotzbach would not say when the company expects to complete development of the new offerings. However, he confirmed that both will be part of the hosted Google Apps portfolio at some point. Earlier this month, analysts said Google's fledgling suite of hosted software lacks features needed by corporate customers.

The language translation tool, explained Glotzbach, would simulate machine translation software already developed by Google.

He noted that most machine-generated translation available today requires human editing to correct linguistic flaws as context ambiguities are often littered throughout conversation and written text. Google's considerable processing power and ability to draw data from multiple Internet access points could minimize linguistic editing requirements and generate rapid translation, Glotzbach contended.

"What you need for real-time automated machine translation is large amounts of compute power, which we have, and large amounts of data, which we have," said Glotzbach. "Imagine a system that can do on-the-fly translation of things like e-mail, documents and IM chat. That's a feature of [Google Apps] you can see on the horizon."

Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst at Wellesley, Mass.-based Nucleus Research Inc., said Google will likely face problems convincing users that the upcoming hosted service is better than language translation software they use now.

"There are a lot of translation tools out there," she said. "The challenge for Google is how do you build a better mousetrap? How do you leverage what's already been done with translation and do it better?"

Google, Wettemann noted, needs to further upgrade its text mining and search categorization abilities to significantly improve on already available language translation efforts.

Glotzbach said that the popularity of YouTube prompted many users to ask Google officials about whether it plans to offer hosted video business tools. Google will initially focus its tools on collaboration and videoconferencing applications, he said.

Wettemann said she expects that Google will develop a tool for integrating video into today's widely used collaboration technologies such as e-mail, IM and discussion threads. "I suspect that's where we'll see Google taking things," she remarked.

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