L without H

Blast from the past: Jo Lernout, half the notorious Belgian double act from the 1990s, has published a “my story” autobiography. He is interviewed in this sepia-tinted International Herald Tribune article about a life that came unstuck after the dot.com years.

“We absolutely had only one goal and that was being the leader in the language technology field in as many languages as possible,” he said. “We were not out to get rich in the first place because we never even bothered to cash out. I mean, even five years after the IPO we didn’t bother to cash out, which is putting me in a very harsh financial situation today.”

He is divorced, has no regular salary, owns no home and said he made no money from L&H.

L&H tried to use financial engineering (and funding from the Belgian public purse) to stitch together what looked like a natural technology empire for the Internet age to many in multilingual Europe at least: speech technology bundled with translation / search products and services in all strategic languages, backed by an archipelago of R&D labs. When it bombed, Bowne Global Solutions and ScanSoft picked up the best bits for a song, logically splitting the speech business from the ‘language’ side again. Despite the vision, speech technology and language technology appear to be different media, addressing different markets with different business models. Speech synergizes more with the vertical ‘telecoms device’ market, language technology with ‘knowledge management’ or ‘publishing’. Perhaps it was that name that best sums up the failure – L&H. Two males joined randomly in a dream (apparently not of avarice), but surely not a real technology brand. Would Microsoft have done so well as Gates & Allen?

Andrew Joscelyne
European, a language technology industry watcher since Electric Word was first published, sometime journalist, consultant, market analyst and animateur of projects. Interested in technologies for augmenting human intellectual endeavour, multilingual méssage, the history of language machines, the future of translation, and the life of the digital mindset.


Weekly Digest

Subscribe to stay updated

MultiLingual Media LLC