Delhi, India: Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT on 24th January 2022 stated in a PTI interview – that the government is looking for capabilities within start-up and academic ecosystems for development of an indigenous operating system (OS).
These statements were made during the release of the second volume of Vision Document on Electronics Manufacturing prepared by the industry body ICEA whose members include Apple, Lava, Foxconn, Dixon etc. Indus OS began as an operating system before going modular with a focus on App Store Business in the form of Indus App Bazaar.
The minister has rightly identified that, ‘the operating system is the main software of any computer and mobile device that weaves in the entire hardware and software system for effective functioning of the OS.’
He further stated that, “If there is some real capability then we will be very much interested in developing that area because that will create an alternative to iOS and Android which then an Indian brand can grow“.
When we launched Indus OS in 2015 our sole aim was to cater to Bharat in their mother tongue. We were able to do so by partnering with Indian brands. We were able to take a significant chunk of the market to beat iOS as the second most preferred operating system.
And that is where the challenges began.
But, before we go through challenges, we would like to unequivocally state that we are interested in speaking to the Government of India regarding the same. We have been building for, growing in, and reaching out to Bharat in 13+ languages for nearly a decade. We believe our experience can help speed up decision-making, create the platform, and outreach. Now, on to the challenges.
Challenges to Building an Indigenous Operating System.
#1 The Government’s move would face hardware challenges:
Like we did in post-2015, the Government too should expect to run into integration issues with hardware players. Unless Indian manufacturers are incentivized to integrate an indigenous OS the adoption will be lackluster.
The feature set can be built with manufacturers keeping in mind the need for Bharat. Technology is the easy part. Post-integration, we also need to build outreach programs that can capture the imagination and hence adoption of the OS. We feel GoI would be able to achieve consumer mindshare with our technical help and their outreach marketing.
#2 Google has a strict policy around what will be shipped in the OEM:
You can’t customize the Android OPEN SOURCE freely. The second point is Google and its policies dictate what OEMs can and cannot do. Choosing to go with an alternative has repercussions. If an OEM does decide to build phones on an alterative fork of Android, Google’s policy does not allow the complete usage of it.
Another example of their policy restrictions is in App Store business. Google does not allow for fair play but they continue to state that they do which is false.
#3 Building an OS from the ground up is itself a big challenge:
But replicating the Android ecosystem of user, and developer is a big hurdle. At Indus OS, post-2015 we pivoted to building the Indus App Bazaar.
Today, we have 400,000 apps on the platform with users having the ability to use it in 13+ languages. This wasn’t easy but our existence proves it wasn’t impossible either.
Creating a product, marketing, or business roadmap with user experience for a billion Indians is easier said than done with the current restrictions by Google. With Indus OS we speak to India’s hinterlands on a daily basis with localization but the policy challenges restrict user choice. These policies also restrict product innovation. However, even with these challenges we continue to build for India. The hope is that all players in the mobile ecosystem will someday soon have equality to compete fairly.
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