China announces its own phone operating system

By Peter Gothard
17 Jan 2014 View Comments

China has announced that it is developing a mobile operating system intended to prevent the growing influence of software produced by western companies such as Apple and Microsoft.

Announced on Wednesday at a ceremony in Beijing, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Liantong Network Communications Technology revealed the China Operating System, or COS for short, which it has designed for use on smartphones, tablets and even PCs.

Further reading

According to an article posted on the Chinese Academy of Sciences website, the operating system has been "completely" built from the ground up independently in China. It is not based on, for example, Android or possibly any other established Linux codebase. Its makers intend it to become the dominant system in China.

COS is said to be closed-source, less restrictive than iOS, but protected against  Android-style fragmentation problems between devices and versions. Interface-wise, it seems heavily borrowed from both Google's and Apple's big-hitting systems.

Ambition is a fine thing, but with no details of development, research cost or any technical information about COS available, it is currently difficult to even begin to quantify what COS actually represents.

Nevertheless, Chinese state-run newspaper People's Daily has already called COS the "realisation of the Chinese Dream in the field of operating systems."

Others, however, have already begun to smell a rat. One internet forum poster in China posited that the OS is closed-source not to protect the secrets of its  development, but in order that the world will not find out it is based on Android source code.

While it seems unlikely that, should COS actually live up to the Chinese government's promises, Apple's or Google's dominance will be truly threatened, smaller-scale attempts at carving new niches may need to be on their guard.

The likes of Jolla and Canonical may need to watch out for the continued ability of their own proprietary systems to make a dent if China can make COS appeal to the low-to-middle end of the smartphone market.

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