No penguins in Akihibara

Whether it was a desktop, laptop, notebook, netbook or sub-notebook like the Sony Vaio today's Akihibara is all Windows, all the time.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Today in Tokyo, I set myself the task of finding Linux in the Akihibara, which advertises itself to the world as Tokyo's electronic wonderland.

I should have stayed on the train.

To the right is the only penguin I found. It's an ad for the Suica card, an ingenious attempt to replace the present system of paper cards with a single, renewable plastic one. The penguin in the lower right is the card's mascot.

The ad says that you can load money into the card, through cash or credit card, in any train station, then use the card at local merchants to get a small discount. It turns the transit system into a bank, it's safer for the merchants than a credit card, and it cuts the use of cardboard.

But that was it for penguins today.

None of the stores I saw displayed Linux on any of the devices I saw. Not the giant department-like stores, not the tiny kiosks.

Whether it was a desktop, laptop, notebook, netbook or sub-notebook like the Sony Vaio (whose ad of a Vaio rising out of a woman's tight jeans as she walks, and her pushing it back into the pocket, is a subway ad classic) today's Akihibara is all Windows, all the time.

You can get a Mac in the Akihibara. There are a few shops specializing in Apple, including a very nice one run by Softbank, the huge Japanese retailer. In the iMac store the iMacs are displayed running iMac ads, Apple's trade dress is i-everywhere. And a few kiosk-sized stores sell iPods at discount.

But for the general market, here as at CompuTex, it's Windows. There is Windows XP on netbooks and Windows Vista on notebooks, there are sometimes mentions of Windows 7 and even Microsoft Office bundles, but no Linux anywhere I could find.

After several hours of fruitless searching I found the largest store I could, the giant Yodabashi Akira, and started asking the help for Linux.

No, no, and no said the first people I talked to.

Finally I found a supervisor. "No Linux, just Windows," he thundered.

OK, then.

The problem is one I have discussed before. There is a price lower than free. There is the money needed to drive a product through sales channels, which Linux strips out, as a feature. What's the value to a store of something you can download for nothing? Why should they carry it? Why should they mention it exists?

I'll let you answer that question. While you're waking up I'll be taking my Suica card to dinner.

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