When news first broke that the Chinese government was working alongside the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) on an Android-competing mobile operating system based on Ubuntu, to be candid, no one really knew what to make of it.
On the one hand, there are plenty of Android and iOS rivals, forks and clones out and about (think Tizen, Firefox OS and Sailfish), but they’re all light years and millions of dollars spent on development and marketing away from becoming a genuine menace. Not to mention the promising (on paper) projects initiated of late and abandoned before getting a shot at fame.
Or BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone, the costly challenger wannabes that never lived to their “true” potential and hype.
Then again, we should probably know better than to just discard an initiative by the Chinese government. Let’s put that into perspective. We’re talking about the powers to be in the world’s most populous country and the biggest mobile market, with roughly 1.2 billion subscribers spread out between the nation’s three leading carriers.
For comparison, active Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile users in the US sum up to about 320 million. Sounds threatening enough? If not, then let’s also mention HTC was rumored to be involved in the development of China Operating System (COS) from day one.
The Taiwanese never confirmed that, but they didn’t do a very convincing job of denying it either, so make of that what you will. Or better yet, make of this what you will: after the official introduction of COS last week, the first device built around the platform has popped up, preparing to roll out with China Mobile, the leading wireless service provider in the Middle Kingdom.
Only the handheld is not an absolute novelty, but rather a carbon copy of HTC’s Butterfly S. With the same exact hardware as the Android version launched last year (5-inch 1,080p screen, quad-core Snapdragon 600 CPU, 2 GB RAM and whatnot), and an extremely subtle software makeover.
So subtle in fact one would probably not have noticed it were it not for the COS logos on the phone’s box. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Those bastards! They said they weren’t going to rip off or fork Android and they did just that.
To make matters worse, COS will apparently be closed source, so we’ll never be able to prove they mimicked took a leaf out of Google’s playbook. But hey, all’s fair in love, war and mobile war, right?
Besides, it’s not that COS resembles stock Android so much. It’s more of a duplicate of HTC’s Sense-skinned Android. And if the One makers are fine with it, why should we mind?
The bigger question is what will Big G think of HTC’s “betrayal”? And was the OEM’s gamble worth it? Finally, could COS be truly a force to be reckoned with? At least on the Asian continent? Guess only time will tell. Which shouldn’t stop you from speculating. The comments section is all yours.