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China may unveil homegrown OS rivals to Windows, Google and Apple

Published time: August 25, 2014 14:39
AFP Photo / Liu Jin

AFP Photo / Liu Jin

​Following revelations of America’s National Security Agency’s global internet surveillance system, combined with a desire to enhance domestic production, China is beating a path towards unveiling its own operating systems in October.

The Chinese-made substitutes would first be introduced on desktop devices, later expanding to include smartphones and other hand-held devices, Ni Guangnan heads an official operating system development alliance established in March, Xinhau reported at the weekend.

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“We hope to launch a Chinese-made desktop operating system by October supporting app stores,” Ni told the trade paper.

China, naturally concerned about the state of its national security following the leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, which showed that many US tech products were vulnerable to “back door” peeks on private information, aims to reduce the country’s reliance on well-known imported brands, including Windows, Google and Apple.

“The recent NSA spying scandal has intensified Beijing’s concerns about its national information security in the era of an interconnected world, in which a limited number of U.S. giants in the hardware and software industries have dominated the market for decades,” Jin Kai, assistant professor at Daejin University in South Korea, wrote in The Diplomat, a website covering the Asia-Pacific region.

Meanwhile, it should be mentioned that the US Justice Department in May issued a 31-count indictment against five Chinese military personnel for hacking into the computers of several American corporations in the hunt for industrial secrets.

Beijing’s move toward domestic production of operating systems (OS) anticipated China’s decision in May to ban Windows 8, Microsoft’s latest operating system.

The announcement is a double whammy for the US technology powerhouse company, which is currently under investigation by Chinese authorities for antitrust violations.

Google, meanwhile, has also not escaped the hazards of doing business in the world’s most populated country. In March last year, Beijing said the world’s most famous search engine company enjoyed excessive influence over China's smartphone industry via its Android mobile operating system. It also ruled that Google discriminated against some local firms.

However, China, which hopes to free itself from the chains of US technology giants in an interconnected world, still has many kinks to work out before it achieves its OS objectives. One problem for China, a country notorious for making products that are part imitation, part innovation, involves developing its own operating system that does not invite claims of copyright invasion.

"China has more than a dozen mobile OS developers with no independent intellectual property rights because their research is based on Android (the mobile operating system from Google)," said Ni, who would like to see the government oversee the ambitious project.

In any case, Ni believes competition will help Chinese developers achieve their goals.

"Our key to success lies in an environment that can help us compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft," said Ni.

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