Tizen OS is earmarked to officially debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona late next month. NTT Docomo was to be the first carrier to sell Samsung's new Tizen based smartphones but cancelled their plans unexpectedly late last week. While all eyes are on Tizen to make an impact against Android in 2014, another operating system is about to enter the market and make huge waves in China over time. As Chinese smartphone users continue to debate the relative merits of Apple's iOS and Google's Android, the new operating system will offer a Chinese-developed alternative to software of foreign origin.
A new report out of China today states that the new operating system, known as China Operating System, or COS, was developed by the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, together with Shanghai Lian Tong Network Communication Technology Inc.
Li Minshu, director of the institute stated that "The release of COS aims to break the monopoly that foreign companies have on fundamental software, and to introduce an operating system with our own intellectual property rights."
Chen Feili, deputy general manager of Lian Tong Network Communication Technology, said the next steps in developing COS are to promote its use on a wider range of hardware and to develop more apps.
Wu Yanjun, an ISCAS researcher who led a team to develop the underlying system and generic framework of COS, said the new system differs from Android and iOS. "We have an official software distribution center, just like Apple's app store, but our Application Programming Interfaces are open and the development platform is free," Wu said.
COS has fixed many logical faults and vulnerabilities together with more than 100 other bugs in the Linux kernel and current open source software. Wu added that "With these vulnerabilities gone and with our security enhancement, it's hard for hackers to remotely control your computer or your phone.
COS will also be applied to a wide range of devices, including personal computers, smartphones, tablets and TV set-top boxes.
Today, 5 out of the top 7 smartphones selling in China are homegrown Chinese companies that included Lenovo, Yulong, Huawei, Xiaomi and ZTE. Today their smartphones run on Android. Yet privately, these smartphone makers are now in talks with the developers of COS for future adoption.
In the bigger picture, alternative operating systems like Windows 8, Linux, BlackBerry and Firefox haven't been able to grab more than a few percentage points worth of market share over the leading Android or iOS in China thus far. So it's not like COS will conquer China overnight. That's just not going to happen.
Yet the difference here is that it's a native Chinese operating system that just may appeal to those that are either more nationalistic or want a lower end phone with no whiz-bang features. That's not going to make COS a challenger to iOS as much as it will for Android.
Will the likes of a Lenovo want to ignite a smartphone war against Apple's iPhone or Samsung's Galaxy Note with an unproven Chinese OS? I don't think so. But Lenovo and the other Chinese OEMs could introduce new smartphones focused on basic functionality and simple apps like email and a calendar. And that kind of simple smartphone could spell much more trouble for Android than for iOS by a wide margin.
Side Note: For the record, a second native Chinese OS has emerged from COSHIP Electronics Co., Ltd. In the last two weeks called the 960 OS operating system also based on Linux