Russia plans to work alongside the Finnish smartphone company Jolla, which built the Sailfish OS, along with experts from fellow BRICS nations China, Brazil, India and South Africa, to develop an alternative mobile operating system.
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Fed up with its reliance on unreliable American-made technology, The Ministry of Communications outlined its ambitions to develop a wholly Russian-made mobile operating system at a meeting between officials and representatives of the Finnish smartphone company Jolla, RBC reported.
The meeting, which was also attended by numerous Russian IT experts, focused on the creation of a rival OS that corresponds to the government's plans for import substitution.
According to RBC, mobile operating systems belong to a category of import products for which there is no competitive domestic alternative. Foreign mobile operating systems currently account for more than 95 percent of the Russian market, but Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov told RBC he wants to see this reduced to 50 percent by 2025. Motivating this ambitious dream is a desire to secure the personal data of Russian citizens, an issue that has hit the headlines in recent months with Russia's introduction of a new law that states foreign companies must save all such data on Russian soil.
The Ministry of Communications acknowledged the difficulties of making a new operating system from scratch at the meeting, which is why representatives of Jolla (whose smartphone runs on the Sailfish OS) and members of the Linux community were asked to help. Antti Saarnio, Chairman of the Board at Jolla, said the partnership would be beneficial to his company as it would be an oppportunity for his own company to gain wider distribution. Currently, Android dominates the smartphone industry with a 80.7 percent global share of the market, according to Gartner, while iOS (Apple) accounts for 15.4 percent. Windows Phones and BlackBerry account for a further 3.4 percent of the market, leaving just 0.5 percent for other operating systems like Sailfish.
An international effort
Russia is also hoping to entice fellow BRICS nations Brazil, China, India and South Africa to help with the project, said the Ministry of Communications in a statement. Nikiforov told RBC that he hopes to create an "international consortium" that will include IT companies from each the BRICS nations. "IT companies will provide their experts, and their time will be paid for by their respective states, giving them the opportunity to work on this project," Nikiforov said.
The involvement of China would be extremely beneficial to the project, because the Chinese have been actively working to build their own mobile operating system for several years. The first such OS, called "OPhone", was developed back in 2009, only for work on the project to end in 2011. More recently, the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) has been working with Shanghai Liantong Network Communications Technology to build the "China Operating System" (COS) to compete with foreign operating systems like iOS and Android.
Russia has also had a crack at making its own operating systems. Back in 2011, then Ministry of Communications head Igor Shchegolev approved what it called a prototype for "Russian Windows", a national operating system that was designed to be used by government officials and civil servants. However, that project was called off in 2012 when President Vladimir Putin appointed Nikiforov as the head of the Ministry of Communications.
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