OpenKylin becomes China's 1st open-source desktop operating system
Updated 11:48, 07-Jul-2023

China's first open-source desktop operating system (OS) – OpenKylin 1.0 – was released on Wednesday, a breakthrough in building independent system software.

OpenKylin is one of a series of Chinese-made OSes installed in computers, servers and smartphones used in finance, energy and even China's space programs like the Chang'e lunar missions and Tianwen Mars missions.

The Linux-based OS was built by a community of 3,867 developers, 74 special interest groups (SIG) and 271 enterprises, according to the official website of the OS.

An open-source OS, like other open-source software, gives users the right to see the "source code" – how the OS was written – and even the right to change it at will. Mainstream PC OSes like Microsoft's Windows and Apple's macOS are not open-source, and users cannot see what's under the hood.

CGTN Digital downloaded OpenKylin and gave the OS a try. Initial testing showed that the OS much resembles Ubuntu, made by the UK software company Canonical. But OpenKylin was built from scratch, putting individual open-source software together into a full-fledged OS. Thus, it will not be controlled by Canonical or any other company.

What makes the OS visually different from other Linux distributions is the desktop environment, named UKUI, developed by the community.

The OS comes with day-to-day software like WPS office suite, Firefox web browser and video players preinstalled. It also comes with a software store to download apps. The store offers both native Linux apps and Windows and Android apps running with emulators.

OpenKylin can run on x86 computers used by most people. It also offers corresponding versions for those using other hardware like Arm and RISC-V computers.

"What's happening to Russian open-source developers gave a warning sign to Chinese developers," one user commented on knowledge-sharing website, referring to many software makers being blocked from the open-source community just because they are Russian or not supporting Ukraine. "Software without borders is just a dream that will never come true, and China needs to build its own open-source community."

This is not the first version of the OS, but version 1.0 is "a milestone," said Zhu Chen, head of the OpenKylin community.

"We have already built versions 0.7, 0.75 and 0.9," Zhu told China Media Group (CMG). 

"This new version signifies that we have gained the ability to lead the OS' development by ourselves," Zhu said. "I hope more users will try our new version and give us feedback."

Kylin, or Qilin, is a legendary creature in Chinese mythology. The name of Huawei's self-made smartphone chip, Kirin, is also derived from the name.

OpenKylin's main rival in China is Deepin, developed by a Wuhan-based enterprise that also vowed to build an independent open-source community.

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