China, wary of operating systems from the Western world, has built a new smartphone OS that it believes will be more secure than the likes of Android and the iPhone. While China claims it as its own, the OS looks like it’s based on Android.
China Operating System, or COS, was unveiled last week by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shanghai-based Liantong Network Communications Technology, the New York Times reported. COS is “designed for use on many devices including smartphones and personal computers” and was called “a strategic product for national security,” the Times said. US surveillance and the end of support for Windows XP reportedly played a role in the system’s creation. Liantong Deputy GM Chen Feili said the ultimate goal is to make COS China’s main operating system.
While Windows is the predominant desktop OS in China, Android commands about 90 percent of China’s smartphone market, with iOS taking most of the rest, IDC reports.
A video of COS shows that it looks like an Android clone, is running on what is likely an HTC Butterfly S phone that normally runs Android, and can run games like Angry Birds. Ars’ Android expert Ron Amadeo tells me COS looks like it’s just a skin of HTC Sense, an interface HTC uses for its Android phones.
Despite that, Chinese officials say it was developed “completely” by China. An article published by the Chinese Academy of Sciences “said existing open-source operating systems pose security risks, and foreign-made systems have ‘acclimatization’ difficulties in China, problems that COS addresses,” the Times wrote.
COS reportedly runs Java applications, supports HTML5 websites and games, and is compatible with more than 100,000 applications overall.
China’s claims about COS’ origins raised suspicion, the Times reported:
“Its full name should be Copy Other System,” said one user with the handle “byxu,” in one of the most upvoted comments on [social network] Sina weibo. “It’s not open source because they’re terrified that others will see that the source code is the same as Android, and accuse them of cheating the government out of money.”
Separately, the Chinese government signed a deal with Canonical last year to create a new version of the open source Ubuntu for Chinese users that is intended to wean people off of Windows desktops. At the time, Canonical said that “future work will extend beyond the desktop to other platforms” such as servers, tablets, and phones. A recent financial report from Canonical said that China accounts for the “majority of global units shipped” by the company. The emergence of COS probably doesn’t spell the end of Ubuntu in China, but it shows that the Chinese government isn’t putting all its eggs into one operating system.
Though COS phones aren’t available commercially yet, China Mobile and China Telecom have reportedly been testing devices running the operating system.