WordPerfect admits it's gambling, but the Provo computer giant hopes a full-scale effort to create a Russian-language version of its word-processing program will pay off big in a few years.
The computer company began writing a Russian version of its word-processing program two months ago and hopes to have it completed by September."There's not a market right now," said Ronnie Johansen, director of international marketing for WordPerfect. "The Soviet government is our biggest market because they have Western currency."
To expedite the process, the company has brought Soviet experts to Utah. One of them is Alexei M. Chadovich, who commutes daily from his home in Salt Lake City to Provo.
"Now there are more and more computers in the Soviet Union," said Chadovich, who comes from a scientific community called Troitsk and works for a branch of the Kurchatov Atomic Energy Institute. Like his wife, Yuliya and his 7-year-old daughter, Zhenya, Chadovich speaks fluent, if somewhat broken, English.
Troitsk is a sister community with Salt Lake County, and officials said that relationship helped the computer company gain the cooperation it needed.
Chadovich said the Soviet government wants to make computers more accessible to the average citizen, not just scientists and educators. He believes a Russian-language word processor would help his country's economy. "Computers helped the American economy," he notes.
However, the Soviet government at the moment has more pressing matters to consider, such as food shortages and its own threatened collapse. "We don't know what's going on back there," Chadovich said, noting he hears little news from home.
Johansen said the company hopes its Russian program will pay dividends "maybe five, 10 or 15 years in the future. It's a big gamble as far as making money up front."
The biggest problem is that the Soviet Union's currency is not traded on the international market. Johansen said Coca-Cola Corp. has agreed to buy the program for use in its Soviet operations, and some small fledgling Soviet companies will also purchase it.
WordPerfect already offers its program in 18 different languages and is translating it into six more. Although WordPerfect users may use the English versions of the programs to write in foreign languages, the new translations include manuals, prompts and menus in the foreign language.
Johansen said the company probably will continue to expand internationally and will probably begin working on versions in some of the other languages spoken within the Soviet Union.
He said it is difficult to estimate how much the Russian translation will cost the company, noting several employees will be used in the project.