China announces smartphone OS to beat Google and Apple

By Zhang Yiwei Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-17 0:33:03

China has developed its own cellphone operating system aimed at beating the stranglehold of the foreign-developed Google and Apple systems, announced the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Wednesday.

The system, dubbed China Operating System (COS), is a strategic product for national security, which has become more urgent in the wake of recent incidents such as the US intelligence scandal of Prism and Windows ending further support of its XP system, CAS said in its press release.

Similar to the interface on Google's Android and Apple's iOS, the Chinese system can be used on touch-screen phones and serves as a platform for various apps - it can already support up to 100,000 apps, claimed CAS and its partner, Shanghai-based Liantong Network Communication Technology.

Also compatible for tablets and TV set-top boxes, the system is marked by its safety since it allows only one app store, the official one, so as to ensure that all applications are examined to be safe and non-pirated, compared with Android, which is open to any apps, the press release said.

Officials from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology also attended Wednesday's press conference to show the government support for COS.

However, news about this system drew almost unanimous doubts and mocking on the Internet, with many questioning why the government has funded yet another ambitious project that will not necessarily weather market tests. Some even speculated that it is a modified Android system.

COS developers have insisted that the system has its own independent intellectual property right as it is all original work from the underlying code to the user interface, even though it has absorbed the merits of other open-source systems.

"There is a consensus in our field that independent intellectual property rights means the key part of the product is distinct from others," Wu Yanjun, a research fellow from the institute, told the Global Times, noting that COS also uses the Linux kernel, like other systems, but all the codes above the kernel were written by themselves.

This is not the first time similar products have been developed domestically. Coship Electronics, a Shenzhen-based company, released an operating system called 960OS on January 10, boasting its safety features that prevent users' personal information from being stolen.

"IT companies started to continuously release their own operating systems targeting safety since the high-profile Edward Snowden case to satisfy the needs of government," Wang Yanhui, head of Shanghai-based Mobile China Alliance, told the Global Times.

He noted that mobile phone producers may be reluctant to cooperate as consumers have already developed the habit of using applications compatible with Android and application developers are unlikely to pay as much attention to improving their service on applications for alternative systems.

A system developed by the Alibaba Group in 2012 made itself compatible to Android to attract more consumers, but the process of cooperating with phone producers was not so smooth.

However, Wu said that the company's backer, a State-run investment corporation in Shanghai, has a favorable industry background and various connections with potential cooperation partners in the field, making the market prospects for COS more promising.

Red Flag Linux, one of China's largest Linux vendors, which was also founded by CAS, is reportedly facing a shutdown after a lack of funding caused protests by its employees on December 30, 2013.

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