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Tech war: China doubles down on domestic operating systems to cut reliance on Windows, MacOS from the US

China has created an open platform to accelerate the development of a home-grown desktop operating system, in its latest effort to shake off the country’s reliance on foreign systems such as Microsoft Windows and Apple’s MacOS.

Kylinsoft, a subsidiary of state-owned China Electronics Corp, last week joined forces with more than 10 Chinese entities, including the National Industrial Information Security Development Research Centre, to set up an open-source code community.

Named “openKylin”, it allows programmers to publish and share computer codes related to the Kylin operating system.

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The effort comes amid rising tensions between the United States and China. The latter has been trying to boost local production of key technologies ranging from semiconductors to software.

A screenshot of one of Kylinsoft’s desktop operating systems. Photo: Handout alt=A screenshot of one of Kylinsoft’s desktop operating systems. Photo: Handout>

China’s quest for a competitive domestic operating system has been going on for decades, with some candidates already available in the market. Kylin was originally developed by the National University of Defence Technology of the People’s Liberation Army, which has been licensing Kylinsoft for commercial applications since 2014.

However, those attempts have yet to result in any Chinese system capable of rivalling Microsoft Windows, which leads the market with an 85 per cent share in mainland China.

Globally, Windows also remains the dominant desktop operating system with a market share of just under 74 per cent as of December. Apple’s MacOS, which has become more widely used over the years, riding on the popularity of iMacs and MacBooks, holds a share of around 15 per cent.

Linux-based operating systems, which include most of China’s home-grown systems, retain a small but stable market share worldwide.

The first versions of Kylin include codes from the Unix-like software FreeBSD, while later versions have been based on Linux, according to a report by research and consulting firm EqualOcean.

As part of China’s efforts to reduce its dependency on Western technologies, the country runs its own open-source platform Gitee to counter Microsoft’s more well-known global site GitHub.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said on Thursday that openKylin would fast track the development of Chinese operating systems.

Kylinsoft currently has three operating systems on offer: V10, V4, and NeoKylin V7.0. Among them, V10 has been configured to be compatible with the widest range of central processing units, including those from Huawei Technologies Co’s HiSilicon, Loongson, Sunway, Hygon and FeiTeng.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


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