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Japanese government eyeing Linux? Quick deconstruction of a non-story.

On October 6, this article in The Age: Japan to boost Linux use. Note the following quote:

Separately, Japan, China and South Korea agreed earlier this year to jointly develop a new computer operating system based on Linux as an alternative to the dominant Windows, the official said.

“Apart from the procurement issue, this project is intended to develop an operating system that supports languages that have Chinese characters,” the official said.

There are two problems with this story.

First, is Asian language support really that bad in the current Linux distributions? As far as I know, they all come with excellent support for Japanese, Chinese and Korean and usually offer the option to change the GUI language upon login. So why a special Asian version?

Secondly, isn’t this story a non-story? “Japanese government eyes Linux” like headlines have been repeated for almost three years now (or maybe even longer?). A small overview of the “meme”:

See the trend? Nothing’s happening, really. To make things even more interesting, there was the news in November 2004 that the Japanese government had chosen Sun JDS as part of an “initiative to promote the use of open-source desktops in educational institutions.” Upon closer reading however, it seems like the Japanese government didn’t place an order with Sun: “They haven’t bought any software, […] [b]ut they’re endorsing an open-source desktop community.” Ahh, they’re endorsing it. I see.

My idea: the Japanese government isn’t really looking at Linux as a Windows replacement. Instead, the administration knows that by dropping the words “Linux” and “open source” every few months, the media will pick it up and fabricate a “Japanese government eyes Linux” type of story – and that, of course, results in cheaper deals with Redmond. Just my 2¢.

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  1. Japanese support is fantastic in Linux, I use it every day. Not sure about Korean and Chinese however.

    » James on January 27th, 2007 at 04:45