Some of you guys may have noticed that the Presidents of both Russia and China are on official working visits to South Africa as part of the BRICS meeting we’re having here in Durban. Our ties with China are in the spotlight and in particular the kind of services they’re rendering to us in exchange for whatever Jacob Zuma’s agreed to. One of those things we’re giving them is a little gift from Mark Shuttleworth’s Canonical, the company that makes the Ubuntu Linux operating system, with the offer to develop a version of the OS that the Chinese government can use as replacements for Windows desktops.
One of the pressing issues when Microsoft’s software began to sell in China was rampant piracy. The country is so well-known for copying protected material and designs that the government even gives their citizens the right to patent designs on things that already exist elsewhere around the world, like the Android-powered Apple iPhone clone. But make no mistake, this isn’t as a result of those commies being plain thieves, this is part of China’s move to rid itself of Western influence. Last year they started selling crude oil using the Yuan, they began to design their own, in-house processors to replace the x86 chips from Intel and AMD and now they’re planning on booting out Windows software in the workplace.
Canonical’s formed a partnership with the China Software and Integrated Chip Promotions Center (CSIP) to develop a version of Ubuntu for governmental use, customised to work with the MIPS processors the Chinese government is currently testing. The distro will be called Ubuntu Kylin and will support Chinese characters, calendars, local weather services, popular music services accessible straight from the Dash and integration with Baidu maps, online shopping and payment systems compatible with Chinese banks. While testing is still ongoing, Kylin will also be available to the Chinese government to use with x86-based processors.
Kylin changes the scene for the consumer landscape drastically. While Windows software will still be sold in some stores, many more laptops sold in China will have to come with Kylin pre-installed as per government regulations, forcing corporations like IBM, Dell and HP to use Ubuntu Kylin instead if they want to comply with the regulations. In addition, a statement released by Canonical also mentions “other platforms” will be in development. That means that not only will Canonical be supplying a customised desktop OS, it’ll also be giving the same treatment to mobile phones as well as tablets. That’s quite a step.
That’s going to hurt the other company China currently doesn’t like – Google. Android has been increasingly popular in the country since its release and it is one of Google’s largest markets, thanks to the death of Nokia Symbian. Russia’s also possibly part of this crowd as well- they even have their own geo-stationary satellites for GPS navigation services within the country, let alone the fact that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and their economic collapse caused by the Americans, they’ve been doing their best to give the US the finger at every possible turn. Ditching Microsoft completely, especially once they’ve seen how the Canonical deal may work in China, would be an ideal move for them.