The last several months have been packed with planning our next set of features in the international space -- talking to customers about what they need and what they want, looking at the teams we have and seeing where our skills are up to the challenges ahead and where we need improvement, and looking at the initial Vista feedback as it begins to roll in. We're seeing some good stuff and some bad stuff. A few themes:

People want to use strings: We've been pleased at the initial adoption of our name-based NLS APIs both in Windows and in .NET. Most existing components still rely on LCID-based support, but new components are increasingly starting to rely on names, and even several existing components are starting to plan for a migration to strings. This is crucial as the rate of custom locale adoption will only increase over the next few years, and in order to benefit from the full range of locales that a user has installed, it will be vital that applications ask for international support using strings rather than LCIDs. Legacy LCIDs aren't going away any time soon, but there will come a time when new locales are identified with strings and strings only.

But strings have to be reliable: As we have seen more than a few times in the last several years, sometimes there are changes in the world situation that require changes to software. A geography that is united as one jurisdiction today may vote to become distinct nations in a month or a year or ten years. We have to make it easy for developers to call us for reliable globalization support for customers even when borders shift and the customers' country of residence is updated. We have done some things well here and other things not so well, so figuring out how to handle these situations at an infrastructure level is one of our key focuses.

Locale Builder is great, so where can I get it? We've gotten a lot of great questions about Locale Builder and we're seeing a number of customers interested in custom locale technology. We're seeing questions from customersacoss the spectrum: from OEMs, from application developers who need to deploy custom locales with their applications, and from users whose languages and regions do not have existing locale support. The initial beta of LB expired, but you can get the current version on the Microsoft Locale Builder download page. Please let us know what you think.

The globalization support that people have today is not enough. People are using what Globalization Services provides today, but all the time we're getting requests for more. In particular, people want more core linguistic support in the OS. This includes updates to our sorting functionality -- we have to follow through on the versioning story that we've begun building -- and also requirements for linguistic functionality that developers cannot get from the operating system at all today.

We have an ambitious list of stuff that we need to work on, but it's also been exciting to hear from customers what is and is not working today. All our work for improvements to existing functionality, or the introduction of new functionality, has come directly from the feedback that we've received. We want to know how you're using our stuff and ways that the experience could be better. We're also interested in whether we have any gaps in existing support that are blocking you in some way.