A Chinese OS at last? More than 40 per cent of Dell PCs in China now running homegrown Windows alternative

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 September, 2015, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 September, 2015, 12:08pm

After many failed attempts at promoting homegrown operating systems, Beijing may finally be making headway against Google, Microsoft and Apple, with more than a third of Dell machines in the country running an OS co-developed by the Chinese military.

Forty-two per cent of personal computers sold by the US computer maker in China run the NeoKylin OS, a senior Dell executive told the Wall Street Journal.

The move comes as Dell has begun partnering with Chinese firms to expand into sectors seen as crucial to national security by Beijing.

Last week, the firm unveiled investments of up to US$125 billion as part of a new "In China, for China" strategy. Dell also announced a partnership with Chinese cloud computing firm Kingsoft and state-owned components maker China Electronics Corp, a subsidiary of which co-developed NeoKylin with the National University of Defence Technology under the Central Military Commission.

Dell is the first Western brand to make personal computers running NeoKylin, which is based on the open-source Linux OS popular with server operators, Han Naiping, chief executive of CEC-subsidiary China Standard Software, told the WSJ.

Beijing has long called for the development and adoption of a homegrown alternative to Microsoft's Windows, which still dominates the Chinese market. That desire only intensified following the revelations by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of widespread cyber-surveillance by American intelligence agencies.

Last year saw the bankruptcy of Red Flag Software, once one of China's largest developers of computer operating systems.

Established by the official Chinese Academy of Sciences and heavily subsidised by the government, Red Flag nevertheless failed to achieve more than 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million) in annual revenue. In June, the company closed its doors for good amid accusations by staff that they had not been paid for months.

A mobile software platform, the China Operating System (COS), was announced in January 2014 with great fanfare and official support, but has failed to make any headway against Google's Android or Apple's iOS.

Less than 2 per cent of smartphones in China do not run either Android or iOS, with Google's operating system by far the most popular as of July 2015, at nearly 74 per cent of devices, according to Statista.

Even with Dell's support of NeoKylin, the Chinese OS has a long way to go if it is to make any headway against Microsoft.

According to StatCounter, as of January this year, 97.2 per cent of desktop computers in China ran a variety of Windows, with far more machines still using the discontinued Windows XP than a non-Microsoft OS.