Android is in a tricky spot within China. While the OS is run by practically every smartphone in China that’s not an iPhone, including of course handsets from domestic champions such as Xiaomi, the Chinese government maintains a near state of war against Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).
Google, with its libertarian ethos, antagonized the Chinese government when it operated in the country by refusing to comply with censorship requests. When Google left China, the Chinese government began traffic shaping its packets before outright blocking Google late last year. Now trying to use Google or things like Gmail or Google Apps is impossible in China without a VPN (and the majority of which no longer work inside the country). The majority of Android platforms used by Chinese vendors are heavily forked. While this presents its own security problems, it’s the best vendors can do to still use Android without relying on Google.
China’s government recognizes the problem and is developing its own indigenous mobile OS as a way to remove the dependence Chinese companies have on Google.
For Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) part, the company says that it will assist China in developing this platform to ensure compatibility with the Intel platform (a must considering the investments Intel is making in Chinese smartphone vendors).
“We have and continue to collaborate on indigenous platforms. We have thousands of software engineers and leadership here in China,” Intel’s Doug Fisher, the company’s Vice President General Manager, Software and Services Group, said at IDF Shenzhen 2015. “We will work with China’s government industries to ensure that we participate in the creation of an indigenous operating environment here in China.”
He said that Intel’s role with the China OS Association, the industry group working with China’s government, will be to “enable” the OS.
It will be interesting to see how close China lets Intel get to the development process of the indigenous OS. On one hand China would need to consult with Intel to ensure compatibility with its platform. On the other hand, China might not want to let Intel get too close to the platform for fear that it would lose face letting a foreign firm in to help with the heavy lifting development work – or worse plant a backdoor.