India's new Rupee symbol won't show soon on computers

It will take at least 18 months for encoding the symbol in Unicode, the government says

Vendors of computers, mobile phones, and software say they will support the symbol for the Indian rupee that was approved by the Indian cabinet on Thursday.

But it may be over two years before the rupee symbol starts showing on computers and mobile phones, analysts said.

Many vendors are also undecided whether they will offer the new symbol on keyboards and keypads, or as additions in software to the character set supported by their devices.

Nokia, for example, welcomed the move by the Indian government to have a symbol for the rupee, and said it would abide by the rules and regulations in this regard. However, a company spokeswoman said it's too early to comment on how the symbol will be implemented, whether on the phone keypad or on the character list.

For computers, mobile phones and other computing devices to understand the symbol, it has to be first encoded, said Pradeep Parappil, lead product manager for Windows and Windows Live, at Microsoft India. The new symbol has to be submitted by the Indian government to the Unicode Consortium to be encoded and allotted a code point in the Unicode Standard, he said.

The Unicode Standard is a character coding system designed to support the worldwide interchange, processing, and display of written texts of diverse languages and technical disciplines, according to its website (http://www.unicode.org/standard/standard.html). The latest version of the Unicode Standard is Version 5.2.0.

The time required to add the new rupee symbol to products does not depend on vendors at this point, but on the time it will take for the inclusion of the encoding in the Unicode Standard, Parappil said.

Once a new version of the standard, which has the code point for the rupee symbol, is released by the Unicode Consortium, Microsoft will start work to include it in the Windows operating system and other products, Parappil said. He did not specify the time it would take to include the changes. Users will not have to buy new software, but will likely receive downloadable updates to their existing software, he added.

The Indian government decided to select a symbol for the Indian rupee to reflect the country's economic growth and its integration with the global economy. The symbol will also distinguish the Indian currency from some other currencies in the region like those of Pakistan and Nepal that are also called rupee, the government said.

The symbol will be used by all individuals and entities within and outside India after its incorporation in the Unicode Standard, the ISO/IEC 10646 standard for coding multilingual text, and the Indian IS 13194 standard, the government said in a statement on Thursday. Unicode Consortium and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Group responsible for ISO/IEC 10646 decided in 1991 to create one universal standard for coding multilingual text.

The Indian government does not appear to have any illusions that it will take some time before the rupee symbol gets added to computers, mobile phones, and other computing devices. The encoding of the symbol in accordance with Indian standards is estimated to take about six months while encoding in the Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646 standards will take about 18 months to two years, it said.

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