I need to throw my hat into the fray. I need to add my voice to the 4 or 5 other Canadian voices that are outraged and struggling to fight back.
If you go into a Best Buy or Future Shop in Canada and ask one of their staff why most of their laptops have only bilingual keyboard layouts, they will usually tell you that it’s the law, all keyboards must be bilingual. This is not at all true. The proof is just down the aisle. Ask the same staff why Apple laptops don’t have the bilingual keyboards displayed on any of their products.
Bilingual keyboards on Canadian laptops were introduced en mass at some point in the last 5-10 years. In Quebec, there are laws requiring all keyboards sold to be bilingual. The rest of Canada has no such law. Canadian laptop manufacturers were suddenly faced with a stark choice: Offer customers a choice between the American keyboard layout, the normal keyboard layout that 3/4 of the Canadian population grew up with. Or the bilingual keyboard that resembles an American keyboard layout, but on second glance looks strangely wrong.
As anyone who types without looking at the keyboard (a touch-typist) will tell you, the bilingual keyboard inexplicably ruins 2 of the 3 most commonly used non-alphanumeric keys: the left shift key and the enter key. Mercifully, the space key was spared. But now, when you use either of your pinky fingers to reach for the left shift or the enter key, you will in both scenarios find instead a back slash key. Far be it from me to question how such a key layout is beneficial to Canadian francophones, but I wish I had a choice of keyboard layout when I buy a laptop.
The reason why laptop manufacturers often chose to only provide bilingual keyboards is commonly understood to be attributable to the money saved by only having 1 specific product in Canada to sell and support as opposed to 2 different products. Laptop manufactures seem to know they are up to no good too as they try to visually merge buttons to make the keyboard look American after a quick glance, as shown on this Acer ‘ultrabook’ I recently saw at Best Buy:
Of course, most higher-end laptops sold in Canada give the buyer the choice of keyboard layout (the default being American). Lenovo, Dell and Apple all offer a keyboard layout choices on most of their offerings. But most laptops, such as Samsungs high-end Series 9 pictured above, and laptops sold in traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores, do not.
I usually prefer letting markets decide such things. I don’t think we need to legally define our nations typing preference. But this seems to be a case where market forces are weak and feeble. How is this? How are is 3/4 of Canada not up in arms, shouting demands for better keyboard layout selection?
Perhaps it is a stereotypically Canadian muted response. Searching for info on political movements aiming to bring back more choice in Canadian keyboards, I found 2 petitions: One by an anonymous author that had 175 signatures (176 after I found it). The other petition was closed.
The Canadian blogsphere (if such a thing exists) seems particularly blasé to the infestation of bilingual keyboards (that é was copied and pasted, thank you). Try a few searches for Canadian bilingual keyboards and you will find 5, maybe 10 articles, blog posts and youtube videos.
Canadians simply don’t seem to give a shit. Those that do would likely be more inclined to switch to a laptop that has an American keyboard layout, or buy their laptop from the US, or most likely, buy the bilingual keyboard and stoically endure hitting back slash every time they want to type a capital letter or start a new line.