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Well that escalated quickly: India demos homebrew mobile OS

BharOS is based on the Linux kernel and is apparently incapable of running malware

A mere week after an Indian government official teased the possibility the nation could create its own mobile OS to challenge the dominance of Google and Apple, minister for education and minister of skill development & entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan has demonstrated just such an OS at work and endorsed it as the sort of the India should be doing.

The OS is called BharOS and was announced last week by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

The OS is reported to ship with no pre-loaded apps, and to share no user data. Only private app stores work with the OS.

Pradhan claimed the OS is incapable of running malware, without elaboration.

JANDKOPS – the think tank incubated at IIT Madras that created the OS – claims it is ideal for users who wish to access private clouds over private 5G networks.

Pradhan praised the operating system's monopoly busting potential, while other speakers at the launch suggested it could be ideal for use by India's government as it could be customized.

Officials demonstrated the OS using a pair of unspecified handsets, which successfully conducted a video call.

It's reportedly based on the Linux kernel, but beyond that, few details have been revealed. Screenshots posted by JANDKOPS depict the Android keyboard app on one screen, a shortcut to the DuckDuckGo search engine, plus design elements that will look very familiar to users of Google's mobile OS.

JANDKOPS's site states the OS is "currently being provided to organizations that have stringent security and privacy requirements" – strongly suggesting it is already in use.

When The Register covered India's OS ambitions last week, we reported that a planned OS was called IndOS. BharOS is an equivalent name, as Bharat is the name of India in some of the nation's many languages.

Officials at the event hailed the OS as contributing to India's AtmaNirbhar Bharat self-sufficiency drive, adding that the nation also needs to develop semiconductors, electronics manufacturing, and other fields if it is to deliver a home-made mobile ecosystem. They also mentioned the need to enthuse developers about BharOS, before reiterating that India will keep working towards technical independence.

That declaration comes as Google fights a pair of antitrust cases in India. The nation's competition authorities are seeking major changes to the Android ecosystem to prevent the ads giant dominating the mobile market.

In recent weeks, the antitrust case has been championed by Rohan Verma, CEO of digital mapping outfit MapmyIndia, who has alleged Google makes it hard for Indian residents to access his company's apps and the fine detail of Indian rural areas they offer.

Verma has been a vocal supporter of India's legal action against Google.

India has a love/hate relationship with Google. On the one hand AtmaNirbhar Bharat seeks to create local alternatives to Big Tech and local sentiment opposes the market power of offshore companies.

On the other, India's prime minister Narendra Modi welcomed Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai – an Indian expat - in December 2022 as he pledged more investment in India and unveiled more localized Google services. ®

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