China rallies support for Kylin Linux in war on Windows

China's efforts to end its reliance on Microsoft Windows got a boost with the launch of the openKylin project.

The initiative aims to accelerate development of the country's home-grown Kylin Linux distro by opening the project up to a broader community of developers, colleges, and universities to contribute code.

Launched in 2001, Kylin was based on a FreeBSD kernel and was intended for use in government and military offices, where Chinese authorities have repeatedly attempted to eliminate foreign operating systems.

In 2010, the operating system made the switch to the Linux kernel, and in 2014 an Ubuntu-based version of the OS was introduced after Canonical reached an agreement with Chinese authorities to develop the software.

The openKylin project appears to be the latest phase of that project, and is focused on version planning, platform development, and establishing a community charter. To date, the project has garnered support from nearly two dozen Chinese firms and institutions, including China's Advanced Operating System Innovation Center.

These industry partners will contribute to several special interest groups to improve various aspects of the operating system over time. Examples include optimizations for the latest generation of Intel and AMD processors, where available; support for emerging RISC-V CPUs; development of an x86-to-RISC-V translation layer; and improvements to the Ubuntu Kylin User Interface (UKUI) window manager for tablet and convertible devices.

China's love-hate relationship with Microsoft

China's efforts to rid itself of Redmond are by no means new. As far back as 2000, Chinese authorities ordered government offices to remove Windows in favor of Red Flag Linux.

However, in the case of Red Flag Linux, those efforts ultimately went nowhere after the project failed to catch on. The org was ultimately dissolved, and the team terminated in 2014. Despite its collapse, the project appears to have been rebooted, with a release slated to launch later this year.

This is a story that would repeat on a regular cadence, fueled by periodic spats between Uncle Sam and software vendors.

It's safe to say the Chinese government has something of a love-hate relationship with Redmond. In 2013, Chinese authorities urged Microsoft to extend support for Windows XP, on which the country still relied heavily.

However, a year later, the Chinese government banned Windows 8 in much of the public sector, just months after Microsoft ended support for Windows XP.

Today, Microsoft controls roughly 85 percent of the desktop operating system market as of June 2022, according to Statcounter.

Some of this can be attributed to the launch of Windows 10 China Government Edition in 2017, which was developed in collaboration with the China Electronics Technology Group.

It doesn't appear those efforts bought Microsoft's American partners much in terms of goodwill, with Chinese authorities directing government agencies to throw out all foreign-made personal computers this spring. ®

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