Can China build a better computer operating system? Possibly. But I don't think Microsoft will be losing too much sleep over to hear that Chinese researchers have developed a new server operating system called Yin He Qi Lin.
The new OS is based on an early open-source version of Unix called FreeBSD, which EngagingChina fondly remembers from the dark ages of the computer industry.
The computing world has evolved a lot since FreeBSD and there are many newer alternatives, not least Linux which is based on FreeBSD. There is even an Asian variant of Linux, called Asianux, backed by China's Red Flag Software and two other companies, one Japanese, the other Korean.
For most commercial IT systems, the choice of server operating system is now essentially a a two-horse race between Linux and Windows. So, its difficult to see how a “made-in-China” operating system can improve on these two battle-tested alternatives.
The new OS was developed at the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) and it is the latest example of China's so-called 863 Plan in action.
This ambitious R&D plan, which started 20 years ago, seeks to develop “leap-frog” technologies that can challenge and perhaps even replace China's traditional dependence on proprietary technologies that have to be licensed from western companies. A topical example is 3G wireless technology, where China's government is poised to soon award licences that require operators to use China's home-grown TD-SCDMA standard — see this story for more.
But in the case of operating systems, China's software developers already have an excellent open-source alternative to Microsoft's Windows in Linux, so the argument that China needs to develop its own “free” operating system holds a lot less weight. Nevertheless, the NUDT claims it has got companies including Lenovo to support the OS.