China Operating System (COS)

Why is China launching its own mobile OS?

A state-sanctioned and financed operating system has been launched in China. Developed jointly by China’s Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) and Shanghai Liantong Network Communications Technology, China Operating System (COS) aims to reduce the dominance of Android and iOS.

The motives behind the decision to develop COS are mainly economic. It is less about creating a walled garden to separate Chinese citizens from any foreign influence, and more about protecting domestic companies from a reliance on Google.

China is certainly not the only country to have become concerned about its technology companies becoming heavily dependent on foreign operating systems. Back in August 2011, the South Korean government announced that it was developing its own mobile OS, for similar reasons.

Rather than keeping the door bolted to the outside world, COS has actively invited it in to take a seat at the table. A number of well known international apps are promoted in the official launch video (available on the OS’s official website), from Angry Birds to Firefox.

The promotional video also reveals a number of visual similarities between COS and Android. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise, given Android’s market share dominance in both China and the wider world.

COS is based on Linux, and will be available for Chinese hardware manufacturers to use how they see fit. Initially, it is expected the new OS will be deployed in phones, tablets and smart TVs.

It is unlikely that COS will be adopted widely outside China, in the immediate future. The OS is closed source and it is not clear how much access foreign hardware manufacturers will have, although Engadget is reporting a rumour that HTC are involved in the project.