The Global Watchtower blog contains a post about recent developments in rule-based MT.
For a brief overview of rules-based MT as opposed to its competing technology, statistical MT, about the differences between the two approaches and why they might matter to technical translators, see also the following Wikipedia links:
Global Watchtower describes the latest advances of the four main players in this field, PROMT (good quality, integrates with Trados, sadly no English > Italian module yet), SDL (finally offers Trados integration), SYSTRAN (no real integration with CAT tools except with workarounds), and Translution (no integration with CAT tools, as far as I know).
One important point made in the post is the recent shift, supported mainly by Google, from rule-based to statistical as the technology of choice in this sector. Perhaps we will see more blended approaches in the future, as traditional rule-based system providers tweak their programs so that they can benefit from the large parallel corpora of texts that are made available on the internet.
Global Watchtower’s closing paragraph tries to highlight the main benefits offered by desktop-based solutions (programs that you have to buy and run locally on your PC or LAN server) as opposed to web-based approaches, citing integration with the desktop, easier user manipulation of the data and protection of sensitive data.
From the point of view of a technical translator, I cannot see how I can ever be able to boost my productivity by using a web-based product such as Google MT, on which I can have no pre-production control whatsoever. Without a tight control on the terminology that such a system will spit out, its results will be almost useless and require plenty of repetitive, tedious post-editing.
Instead, using a desktop MT system that accepts carefully “hand-crafted” glossaries (perhaps automatically extracted from existing reliable translation memories), a technical translator may be able to obtain considerable advantages both in terms of consistency and speed.