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China takes on iOS and Android with COS, a government backed smartphone OS

cos is chinas new smartphone operating system interface
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Move over iOS and Android, step aside Windows Phone, there’s a new challenger to your smartphone supremacy. It’s called COS, which stands for China Operating System, and as you can probably guess, it has been backed by the Chinese government and will most likely only be released in the country. It was launched this week at an event in Beijing, and has been produced to crack the monopoly foreign smartphone operating systems have in the country.

The Chinese government may have backed the OS, but it’s really the work of the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The new platform is open source, based on Linux, and localized for use in China. It’s not only designed for smartphones, but it’s also destined to find a home on set-top boxes and inside computers.

COS LogoAccording to Engadget China, Android and Windows Phone were criticized at the launch event for having poor security, while iOS was singled out for being too restrictive. COS, on the other hand, apparently doesn’t suffer from such problems, and won’t be affected by Android’s fragmentation either. We’ll see. Having bashed the competition, COS was unveiled, and the interface seems to to have borrowed heavily from both Android and iOS, while a few of the phones used in a promo film match those produced by HTC. 

This is because HTC has been an advisor on the project. News of the alliance broke in August last year, when the Wall Street Journal said HTC’s chairperson Cher Wang was supervising the creation of a new China-specific operating system. The first phones were expected before the end of 2013, so the timeframe is a little off, as we’ve yet to see any hardware running COS.

While any competition will be cautiously eyed by Google, it’s smaller companies such as Jolla who will really sit up and take notice of COS, as Sailfish’s primary market was always said to be China and other parts of Asia. While it could end up losing out, if HTC produces a few hit COS phones it could emerge as a winner, depending on how the new software is received by Chinese smartphone buyers.

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Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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