China is going to stick it to those Western tech giants dominating the Chinese desktop and mobile markets, according to a report from Xinhau. The country's communist government is backing development of a homegrown, though Linux-based, operating system to compete with Apple, Microsoft, and Google in China.
At issue is the reality that Chinese tech companies haven't developed their own operating systems that can compete with OS X, iOS, Windows, or Android. Not only does that result in billions of dollars flowing out of China (at least when piracy isn't involved), Chinese security services feel like it exposes the country to espionage from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
There is at least a massive dollop of irony in trying to correct these issues by "developing," or more likely skinning, an operating system based on Linux, which was envisioned by a Fin (Linux Torvalds), and further developed by coders, engineers, and hackers around the world, many of whom are in the West. That irony appears to be lost on the backers of the project inside China.
"China has more than a dozen mobile OS developers with no independent intellectual property rights because their research is based on Android," Ni Guangnan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering told the People's Post and Telecommunications News, according to the English-language Xinhua. "Our key to success lies in an environment that can help us compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft."
The first iteration of this operating system will be released in October. Reuters reported that Mr. Ni hopes it will be able to replace desktop operating systems (i.e. Windows and OS X) within two years. He wants for it to be a viable mobile operating system within five years.
Either time frame is delusional unless China clamps down on foreign technology more than it has. Putting protectionist walls in place or even outright banning Western tech products could certainly force Chinese consumers to adopt local products, but at what expense to productivity and usefulness?
Mr. Ni talks about "an environment that can help us compete with Google, Apple, and Microsoft," but from this Western boy's viewpoint, the environment that is truly needed is a culture of innovation. That culture is lacking in China in so very many ways, and it's hard to see that changing just because some government backing goes into fiddling with Linux.
China's goals with this project are quite understandable. It's ability to achieve those goals remains to be seen, but color me doubtful.