Microsoft may soon face a new competitor in China.
The country's government is preparing to launch a local competitor to Microsoft's Windows desktop operating system this fall, according to the Chinese news outlet Xinhua. Remarks by Ni Guangnan of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, head of a government-backed OS development alliance established in March, were originally published in the People's Post and Telecommunications News, a trade publication from China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
"We hope to launch a Chinese-made desktop operating system by October supporting app stores," said Ni. A mobile version, a rival to mobile operating systems from Apple and Google, is expected to debut at a later date, he added.
Google's Android mobile OS commands a staggering 85 percent share of the worldwide smartphone market, according to Strategy Analytics, an IT research firm. Analyst Linda Sui told eWEEK that emerging markets, including China and India, are practically dominated by Android-based handsets.
It's not the country's first stab at an OS, noted Ni. However, past efforts have suffered setbacks due to the technology gap between China and developed countries, he lamented. The current initiative is encountering stumbling blocks of its own, he reported.
Research funds are hard to come by, said Ni. Additionally, developers keep pulling the program in different directions. As to why the Chinese government is taking the lead, Ni said that "China has more than a dozen mobile OS developers with no independent intellectual property rights because their research is based on Android."
Nonetheless, China is confident in the project and its potential to reshape the OS market in the populous nation. Ni expects the software to replace desktop OSes in one to two years and mobile OSes in three to five years, reported Reuters.
"Our key to success lies in an environment that can help us compete with Google, Apple and Microsoft," asserted Ni.
Microsoft caught the eye of Chinese regulators in June 2013, culminating in raids on the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant's offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu. On July 28, anti-monopoly investigators with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) seized computers, contracts, financial statements, emails, files and documents as part of a probe into compatibility issues in Windows and Office.
"We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have," a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK.
On Aug. 6, the SAIC kicked off another round of raids, this time targeting Microsoft offices in Beijing, Liaoning, Fujian and Hubei. Accenture's offices in Dalian were also searched as part of the investigation. Microsoft outsources its financial operations to the Dublin-based multinational business services and outsourcing company.
Earlier, the country outright banned Microsoft's latest desktop OS for government use. In May, China prohibited Windows 8 on its government systems, following disclosures about the U.S. National Security Agency's (NSA's) far-reaching cyber-spying capabilities.