China Releases OpenKylin OS, a Linux-Based Operating System

China releases its first homegrown open-source desktop operating system, OpenKylin, as it steps up efforts to cut reliance on U.S. technology. Released on Wednesday and based on the existing open-source Linux operating system, China’s version was built by a community of about 4,000 developers. State media said it is already being used in China’s space program and industries such as finance and energy.

Developing an independent computer operating system has been a top priority for the Chinese government as it seeks to break Beijing’s reliance on foreign-made technology. It has backed various initiatives over the years, including a push in 2014 to replace Microsoft’s Windows operating systems in the domestic market with Kylin and its variant NeoKylin. However, these efforts have yet to yield an indigenous OS competing with Microsoft’s dominant 85% share of the domestic desktop OS market.

The latest initiative, launched last week by Kylinsoft Co Ltd, a state-owned China Electronics Corp subsidiary, has created an open platform to accelerate the development of the homegrown OS, known as openKylin. Its goal is to unseat Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s MacOS from the domestic software operating system market, which has a value of more than 15.5 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) and is increasing.

Kylinsoft and other companies in the same line of business have launched a website to publish and share code related to the homegrown OS, allowing more programmers to contribute and boost its potential. The community has over ten members, including several state-backed entities promoting information security research and development.

Aside from accelerating the development of the openKylin OS, Kylinsoft will expand cooperation with overseas software and hardware developers, as well as universities and colleges. It will also attract more global users to the system. The company plans to introduce more apps to the operating system for work, life, entertainment, and a range of new functions and services.

The new platform has already attracted over a dozen local companies and institutions as its partners. Those include the China Academy of Science, the National University of Defence Technology, and UnionTech Software Technology Co Ltd, a software developer. The company has created a Gitee website to rival the popular software development site GitHub.

Creating a native operating system is a vast undertaking that requires the collaboration of multiple developers and businesses. In addition to software engineers, it requires hardware experts who can create the necessary chips to run the new OS. The company aims to complete its initial development phase by the end of the year and start mass production next year. The company said it would target the high-end computer and mobile phone markets and offer its products at lower costs than foreign competitors. The system is expected to be commercially available by the end of 2021. It will also be compatible with the market’s most popular central processing units.

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