Seems like China is looking for ways to do its own computing thing, independent of the west. Some of this is being forced upon them, as with Huawei’s recent decision to accelerate development of a Windows replacement code-named Hongmeng (see Week 22 Newsbytes for more info).That move comes as Microsoft has stopped licensing Windows to Huawei, as a consequence of US companies now being banned from conducting business with that entity. Numerous publications are reporting that a Chinese language publication known as Kanwa Asian Defence (based in Canada) asserts that a military organization has started an initiative to replace Windows and Linux OSes currently in use in Chinese military PCs.
CyberSecurity Concerns Are Paramount
The Epoch Times published a story entitled “Chinese Military Will Replace Windows Operating System” on May 27. This story appears to be the first salvo in a fusillade of similar stories from publications that include Forbes, Business Times, and ZDNet, among many others. [Note: any or all of these stories are worth reading for more information, and explains why I provided links for all of them.] Epoch Times (ET) reports that the Kanwa Asian Defence item appeared on May 11. It asserts that a military organization known as the Internet Security Information Leadership Group (ISILG) is now tasked with replacing the Windows OS, and probably also the Linux OS, both of which are currently widely used within the Chinese military.
That said, it looks like the opening sally is all that’s been fired so far. The new ISILG organization is superior in authority to network departments in various military units and reports directly to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Pary (CCP). ET indicates that this could be a response to moves within the US Military, which split off the network security division from a US National Security organization to become the US Cyber Command in April 2018. It speculates that the ISILG could function as an opposite number to that command in the Chinese military.
Talk Is Cheap, Code Is Hard (and Expensive)
So far, there’s very little information available about development efforts and resources allocated to turn the vision of a Chinese replacement for Windows (and Linux) into running code. Presumably, this will be a tightly controlled and highly secure project, so it seems pretty likely that we’ll have difficulty learning more. I find myself wondering, however, if the ISILG might not want to look into Huawei’s work with Hongmeng so far. Seems like it could give them a bit of a head start in an effort that’s likely to take at least 2-3 years to produce something worth distributing.
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.