The Germans Love Laptop Linux. So Why Don't We? - InformationWeek

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7/24/2009
05:02 AM
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The Germans Love Laptop Linux. So Why Don't We?

In Germany, two of the top 10 best-selling laptops currently run Linux. What do these folks know that we don't?

In Germany, two of the top 10 best-selling laptops currently run Linux. What do these folks know that we don't?A recent post on Linuxtech.net tells a story that some readers will find surprising: "A look at the current (23rd July 2009) Amazon.de (Germany) Laptop/Notebook bestsellers list will be a nice surprise for any desktop Linux advocate and possibly a worry for Microsoft and Apple sales executives. At the time of writing there are two Laptops with pre-installed Linux in the top ten bestsellers, both in front of the first bestselling Apple Laptop." "To put this into perspective," the writer adds, "when looking at the Amazon.co.uk Laptop bestsellers list or the Amazon.com Laptop bestsellers list we didn't find a single Linux Laptop anywhere, in any position."

It's an interesting trend, and it raises questions about the current debate in the United States over whether desktop Linux stands a chance against Windows. According to the prevailing wisdom, while Linux has a bright future in other markets, including servers and mobile devices, it simply faces too many obstacles to gain any real traction on the desktop.

The popularity of Linux laptops in Germany suggests otherwise. The question remains, however: What accounts for the discrepancy? Does it make sense to suggest that Germans take a fundamentally different approach towards desktop usability compared to their American (or English, or French) counterparts?

I think not. If one resorts to spurious, vaguely xenophobic assertions about "cultural differences," then why is the Windows user interface a de facto global standard? You can't have it both ways.

Economic arguments against desktop Linux get into trouble on this point, as well. Consider the claims that there are "too many Linux distros" fragmenting the market or that it is simply too difficult to build a sustainable business model around the Linux operating system. If these are truly show-stopping problems for desktop Linux, then I expect them to stop the show just as effectively in the German market.

I don't have any easy answers to explain these differences. But I do believe that they expose serious weaknesses in the current explanations why desktop Linux hasn't gained more ground in the United States.

What does all of this mean for companies considering a switch to desktop Linux? Don't believe the anti-desktop Linux hype.Most of it makes no real sense, and it certainly doesn't provide any useful feedback for companies attempting to make informed IT decisions.

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