. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Locally-Made Lexicon A Software Survivor

There is a very strong chance that if you work in an office anywhere in this country, someone will have a program called Lexicon installed on their computer.

Lexicon is the most widely used word-processing package in Russia. A simple Cyrillic DOS program, it takes up little memory and little disk space. Yet it has all you need in a rudimentary text processor and is very easy to use.

Lexicon became popular in the late 1980s when foreign programs were all still in English and everybody needed a text processing application with a Cyrillic interface.

The runaway popularity of Lexicon, however, never translated into big profits for its owners. The problem with developing a mass software product in Russia is that prices have to be low for customers to be persuaded to buy rather than just copy software. Production costs, however, are high. It is either necessary to produce your software boxes and manuals abroad or print them at the single plant inside the Russian Federation, which, being a monopoly, charges monopoly prices.

Nevertheless, publishing Lexicon is still a viable business. There are about 50,000 officially registered users of Lexicon in Russia. Sales peaked in 1993 at 20,000 packages. Last year, the owners of Lexicon, MicroInform, sold about 10,000 licenses.

What looked like a death blow for Lexicon was struck last year when the product's creator and main developers, Yevgeny Veselov, left MicroInform to work for IBS, a large Russian computer distribution and systems integration firm, together with a team of the best programmers. Veselov had originally joined MicroInform in order to transform Lexicon into a finished product, and without him, it looked destined to become just a piece of shareware.

This month, however, a Moscow-based integration firm, IT, stepped in to save Lexicon. Earlier in April, MicroInform and Arsenal (a subsidiary of IT) signed a partnership agreement assuring the future development of the Lexicon word-processing program.

Under the alliance, Arsenal will help develop future versions of Lexicon for the operating systems Windows 3.X, Windows 95 and Windows NT. Copyright of Lexicon was handed over to Arsenal, which has already begun creating a new version of the product for Windows 3.X (Lexicon 3.0). MicroInform will provide product support for all DOS versions of Lexicon, including compatibility issues between the versions of Lexicon for DOS and Windows. It will also be responsible for any further development of non-Windows versions.

Lexicon will be positioned as a cheap full-functioning, easy-to-use word-processing program, with low platform requirements and it will have compatible menu commands and document formats with Microsoft products.

Russia needs Lexicon. In a country that promised too much to the world of software development, this simple program is one of the few examples of a locally produced, finished and packaged software product.

Moreover, today we are all being pushed to use heavier and heavier software programs with ridiculous numbers of functions. The newest version of Microsoft Word, for example, is a frighteningly complex piece of software. Take the right path and it is intuitive and easy to use. But stray into its jungle of functions and you can very quickly get lost. Unpretentious Lexicon is a straight-forward product for the legions of Russian users who are not trying to design a magazine yet simply want their PC for writing letters and reports.

Robert Farish is the editor of Computer Business Russia fax: 929-9958, Internet e-mail: farish@sovam.com