BharOS: India’s attempt to develop an Android alternative

BharOS Android alt
Image credit: JandKops

An Indian company has launched the country’s first indigenously developed operating system, called Bharat OS (BharOS), as a direct challenge to the market dominance of Google’s Android.

Developed by JandK Operations Private Limited (JandKops) and incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, BharOS is the result of a government-funded project to develop a free and open-source ecosystem to reduce dependence on global operating systems like Android.

BharOS was unveiled at a time when India’s competition watchdog, the Competition Commission of India, accused Google to be abusing its dominant position in the Android mobile device ecosystem.

Successful test

BharOS was “successfully tested” on January 24 by Telecom and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who described it as a step towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a “strong, indigenous and self-reliant digital infrastructure in India”.

“The challenge starts from here and we have to be confident in developing an indigenous mobile operating system, and difficulties will come from across the world,” Vaishnaw said. He added, “People don’t want any system like this to succeed”, possibly a dig at big players like Apple and Google who command the majority of the mobile OS market.

JandKops has started talks with handset OEMs and corporates. Within 24 hours since its launch, at least eight companies have already approached the company, says a report by Business Standard.

BharOS is a derivative of the Linux kernel, and can be installed on commercial off-the-shelf handsets, V Kamakoti, director of IIT Madras, told Moneycontrol.

“BharOS comes with security protocols such as root of trust and chain of trust, which means that the operating system is designed to stop working if any change is made to its software,” Kamakoti said.

No default apps for BharOS

He added that BharOS comes with no default apps, which means users will have more control over the permissions that apps have on their device, as they can choose to only allow apps that they trust. Kamakoti said this would create fair competition and a much-needed level playing field in India’s app market.

“In operating systems with default apps, there is no incentive for a user to try and use a different app whose functions will be similar to the one that is already present. There’s no fair competition. Without default apps, I am giving a fair playground,” he said.

In a separate statement, IIT-Madras said that BharOS will provide access to apps from organisation-specific Private App Store Services (PASS). “A PASS provides access to a curated list of apps that have been thoroughly vetted and have met certain security and privacy standards.”

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