Chinese government launches state-approved smartphone operating system

The Chinese government has announced the launch of a smartphone operating system, which is set to go head-to-head against Apple iOS and Google Android, according to official state media reports.

State-owned newspaper The Global Times describes the China Operating System (COS) as 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”.

The software, developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), reportedly works on smartphones, TV set-top boxes and tablets, with the agency claiming 100,000 apps already work with the system.

“The release of COS, intended to break the foreign monopoly in the field of infrastructure software, the operating system, will lead to and develop China’s own intellectual property rights and Chinese characteristics,” a CAS statement says.

While the operating system is based on the Linux kernel – like Android and Firefox OS – and official reports admit it “has absorbed the merits of other open-source systems”, the developers insist it is “all original work from the underlying code to the user interface”.

However, even official state media reports acknowledge doubts in some sectors over the new mobile platform.

“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,” The Global Times reports.

News of the new operating system comes after a China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a white paper in March of last year, stating Google’s platform has too much power over the Chinese smartphone market, while calling for the creation of Chinese smartphone platforms.

As SmartCompany reported at the time, the white paper praises Chinese companies including Baidu, Alibaba and Huawei for creating their own mobile operating systems, while attacking the control Google has over the Android platform.

“Our country’s mobile operating system research and development is too dependent on Android,” the paper states.

“While the Android system is open source, the core technology and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google.”

A month later, state-owned newspaper the People’s Daily attacked Apple in April for only offering consumers in China a one-year warranty, unlike some other markets, with the company accused of “unparalleled arrogance”.

The state media campaign prompted Apple chief executive Tim Cook to apologise publicly via a statement on Apple’s official website in China.

Meanwhile, a China Daily editorial in September of last year described Apple as “stale”, criticising its use of English brand names in China.

“Finally, and crucially, these second, emotional brand names should now be Chinese and bear no resemblance to the English language. Chinese people now trust Chinese brands more and value both Western and Chinese brand associations.”

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