My thoughts on Linux and Asia in 2009

My thoughts on Linux and Asia in 2009

First of all, I think it would be right to let people know where I’m from, so that they would understand the relevance of my views. I’m an Asian myself , from Singapore. And why I chose to write this article is for 2 major reasons. Most of the articles I read about Linux comes from North America and Europe. Hence I think it would be interesting for people to learn more about the Asian perspective on Linux, in an English written article, that is. The second reason is to beckon for a greater presence of Linux in Asia.
Let me “sell” you the idea of why I think Linux will do better in Asia. First of all, asia is big conglomerate of hugely different cultures and if you’ve ever been to asia, you would realise that in many places, Asia are on par and if not much better than the rest of world, in terms of choices. Take for example, in China and many other parts in Asia, you’ll see people using different kinds of cellphones, of different makers. Many of brands are not available in Europe or America. And if you go into the features, there are more features per handphone than the you get in Europe and America. Many of these phones are clones or copies of Western brands, but with extra features and lower retail cost. So in terms of cellphone technology, I think Asia is leading. Sometimes my western friends see the phones we have here, they wonder why they are still carrying that black box which they call a phone. And this culture of having more choices, is the one of the fundamentals of the Linux/Gnu philosophy isn’t it? Asians love choices, period.
The next thing is that one of the major reasons I think why Linux is crawling throught the computing market share, is mainly due to the fact that it is mostly advertised or encouraged in the western world. What these Linux companies or distros don’t understand is, there is actually a bigger market in Asia. And it will even bigger, as computer literacy sky-rockets in the near future in Asia. The reason why Microsoft dominates so well in the western world is that, the western world grew up in the world of Microsoft. So most western people, are used to using Windows, and thus it became the de facto OS in school and work. Asia is different. Many asian countries are still developing their literacy level, hence this is the best time to enter the market. Linux being free and open-source, it makes it easy to propagate itself in Asia. And if Asian students learn Linux in schools, it would easily be their OS of choice when they grow up. Hence I don’t understand why the Linux world is neglecting this part of the world. The greater part of the world that is.
Lastly, Asia is more aggressive and competitive that most of the western world in my opinion. Hence Linux would do better here in a more competitive way. If you look at the top universities of the world and look at the top 20 % of the cohort of students, you’ll find many asians there. This is not a show of elitism or racism, but it’s just an example to illlustrate the fact that there are many bright young minds in Asia, which could contribute well to the world of Linux..
But to really succeed in Asia, I think Linux community have to work harder to develop softwares or applications that are supportive of unicode and other Asian language. There are still many apps that are written purely for the English-speaking world and I still find many files with Chinese filenames that are unable to be displayed in multimedia and file managers alike. My personal favorite file manager (midnight commander) wouldn’t display Chinese fonts is an example.
So here I beckon to all the major Linux companies and distros, if you haven’t had a branch/wing/counterpart here in Asia, you don’t know what you have been missing out.=) Singapore’s a good place to start, at least we are English-speaking and we position ourselves between the East and the West since the dawn of our humble history.