China recently launched its first open-source desktop operating system, named OpenKylin, as part of its efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign technology.
OpenKylin was unveiled on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by Chinese officials from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The OS was developed by state-owned China Electronics Corp, along with other participants that include the China Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team, Kylin Software, and more than 10 other software companies.
The Linux-based operating system is designed to provide a user-friendly interface that resembles Microsoft’s Windows, but with features tailored for Chinese users, such as support for Chinese characters, input methods, fonts, and calendars.
OpenKylin also comes with pre-installed applications, such as a Firefox web browser and a Chinese-developed office suite that can work with Microsoft Word and Excel documents.
According to its official website, OpenKylin aims to “build an open source community of desktop operating system through open source and open community cooperation and promote the prosperity and development of Linux open source technology and its software.”
The project is backed by more than 4,000 developers from various industries, institutions, and universities, who have contributed to the development and testing of OpenKylin.
OpenKylin is not the first attempt by China to create its own operating system. In the past, China has developed several operating systems based on Linux or Android, such as Red Flag Linux, Kylin OS, COS, and HarmonyOS.
However, none of them have gained widespread popularity among Chinese users, who still prefer to use foreign-operated systems such as Windows and MacOS.
According to Statcounter, Windows accounts for around 85% of desktop operating systems in China as of June 2022. In the meantime, MacOS has expanded its market share in recent years to about 8%.
One of the main challenges for OpenKylin is to convince users to switch from their familiar systems to a new one that may not be compatible with all the programs and apps they use.
Another challenge is to compete with the global giants in the operating system market, who have more resources and experience in developing and updating their products.
However, OpenKylin may have an advantage in the government and public sectors, where China has been pushing for the replacement of foreign computer equipment and software with domestic ones.
In 2019, China issued a directive that ordered all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years.
The move was seen as a response to the US sanctions on Chinese tech companies such as Huawei and ZTE over national security concerns.
The US has also reportedly been considering further legislation to prohibit American investment in Chinese companies working on advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing.