back to article Well that escalated quickly: India demos homebrew mobile OS

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 …

  1. doublelayer Silver badge

    Let's see images or code

    This looks interesting, but I'm going to wait until the source (or since that seems unlikely a system image) becomes available. People have talked about custom operating systems before with generous praise of its independence, security, and openness only to turn out to be a copy of something with the names hurriedly swapped. If it turns out that this is Android, Firefox OS (for the third time), or even a variant of Salefish, they'll lose the points they got for actually following through on a plan I thought would just be posturing.

    1. Brian Scott

      Re: Let's see images or code

      I suspect this has been around for a while and isn't (much of) a rush job.

      After the announcement a week ago, a company has put their hand up and said "we've already got one".

      Odds are the thing is a variant of one of those systems you mention but the real question is how far have they moved already.

      Device drivers exist for linux based on Google's work with Android so most people would start further up the stack in inventing anything. Also binary compatibility is worth a lot so that encourages a lot more copying.

      There's still a lot of room to improve things without changing everything at once.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Let's see images or code

        "Device drivers exist for linux based on Google's work with Android so most people would start further up the stack in inventing anything. Also binary compatibility is worth a lot so that encourages a lot more copying."

        Yes, it does. However, it also encourages a lot more copying and not inventing anything but swapping names. People who want to sound independent take something that already exists and make it look slightly different without making any real advancements. If I took GCC or LLVM and renamed it, copied the docs and switched the names, and buried the mandatory licenses somewhere so I'm not breaking the law but the reader wouldn't know the extent of my copying, then included a library of mine in the standard code, I have not invented a new compiler. All I would have done in that case is released my library in a cumbersome manner intended to earn undeserved fame.

        When you say you've released a new OS, I generally expect there to be a list of differences from an existing OS that's longer than "The name is different, we reordered the items in the settings app, and it doesn't include Google Play Services binaries". Android ROMs like Lineage OS have a list of extra features as well as their own versions of default apps, and I would still usually count them as a variant of Android, not a new operating system.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Let's see images or code

      BharOS is based on AOSP Android, so it is an Indiafied equivalent to LineageOS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Let's see images or code

        Can you provide a source for that, please.

        1. sarusa Silver badge

          Re: Let's see images or code

          https://www.firstpost.com/world/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-bhar-os-or-bharat-os-the-made-in-india-operating-system-that-wants-to-take-on-android-12044232.html

          https://www.indiatimes.com/explainers/technology/explained-how-isbharos-different-from-android-and-ios-591139.html

          Lots of sources if you just search.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Let's see images or code

            > Lots of sources if you just search.

            Actually, there aren't lots of sources, there is just one source - an Indian Institute of Technology Madras press conference, from which was created a IIT Madras press release, upon which in turn the two articles you you linked to were based. Even then, AOSP isn't mentioned by name in the parts of the conference that were in English - the articles have read between the lines. Articles are not sources.

            Thank you, for supplying the articles though, they were helpful in clarifying BharOS.

            But yeah, it's an AOSP. AOSP with private app stores that mean only apps certified by your organisation can be installed by the end user. There no Google Play Services, which will upset some existing Android apps. Many other Android apps won't run because of permissions. 'Porting' an Android app to BharOS just means its original developer modifies it so that it meets the privacy criteria of the organisation that wants to deploy it to its users, and also having the app be happy to work with whatever is replacing the sort of APIs that Google Play Services usually provides.

            * * *

            What I learnt today, after I saw an unfamiliar word in the press release, "a 100 crore mobile phone users", and I had to look it up on Wikipedia:

            "A crore denotes ten million and is equal to 100 lakh in the Indian numbering system."

            Cool.

            1. iron Silver badge

              Re: Let's see images or code

              So there are lots of sources but only one primary source. Articles are secondary sources, just ask a historian.

  2. 3arn0wl

    WhatsApp

    They love it : made it popular in the first place. If BharOS is to become popular then it has to have a decent client or (better still) the nation will have to put a lot of time, effort and money in persuading its people to use another (better) platform. :/

    At least the government could mandate the use of BharOS for official phones... that, in itself, would be huge.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: WhatsApp

      > At least the government could mandate the use of BharOS for official phones.

      That is exactly what their intention is at this stage. One of the chief differentiators of BharOS is that the only apps available to the user are those curated and hosted by the organisation that supplies the phones to its employees.

      And as you hint at, that alone would be huge given the size of the Indian civil service. However, the Indian government has a clearly communicated roadmap called Digital India, which consists "of three core components: the development of secure and stable digital infrastructure, delivering government services digitally, and universal digital literacy."

      1. 3arn0wl

        Re: WhatsApp

        Did I read somewhere that India are also interested in keeping data local? If so : then there won't be a WhatsApp app.

        I guess it's possible to have a locked down image, coming with only the apps which are deemed necessary - maintained by the 'supplier', with local cloud storage?

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: WhatsApp

        > At least the government could mandate the use of BharOS for official phones.

        That is the take-away I took from the statement:

        ”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.”

        I would assume India has learnt from the US’s bugging of Angela Mercel’s phone etc., what both Russia and China are reputedly up to and decided to mitigate risks.Additionally, they would be concerned about TikTok et al.

        Plus it is a nice investment and sales pitch for India’s IT sector.

  3. sarusa Silver badge
    Meh

    Interesting at least

    Looks like they did what China did and took open source, made some minor tweaks, and are trumpeting it as a tour de force of patriotic ingenuity. It doesn't include any Google apps, including Play store, which is what you'd expect from AOSP, but they're spinning that as a feature.

    The 'no malware' claim is obvious bullshit. They do have a whitelist of known good apps, but that is of course easily bypassed by anyone determined.

    There's nothing obviously wrong with this, but given the Modi government's authoritarian bent it probably includes govt spyware baked in.

    1. RyokuMas
      Coat

      Re: Interesting at least

      ... as opposed to Google's corporate spyware. Guess the question is which poses the greater overall risk?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Interesting at least

        > Guess the question is which poses the greater overall risk?

        Ie, would an Indian citizen expect their own interests to align more closely with their democratically elected officials and institutions, or with a profit-driven entity from another continent?

        (This OS is in the context of India's wider plans to have citizens interact with government services with digital devices, and for India to move closer to self reliance regarding its digital infrastructure.)

        1. First Light

          Re: Interesting at least

          Some Indian citizens such as journalists, human rights and environmental activists are at risk from their own government. At higher risk, in fact, than from Google.

          1. Jan 0 Silver badge

            Re: Interesting at least

            Fixed that for you: Some citizens such as journalists, human rights and environmental activists are at risk from their own government. At higher risk, in fact, than from Google.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Interesting at least

          That would depend very much on whether the citizen in question supports Modi. If they have doubts about the dear leader, then they're at substantially more risk from their own government (harassment, legal or illegal abduction and imprisonment) than from Google (serving targeted ads).

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "is apparently incapable of running malware"

    Careful, some miscreant is inevitably going to say : "Challenge accepted !".

    1. Lil Endian Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Straight in at Number 1...

      ... in the Billboard Chart of Top 101 Things Not To Say, it's "OS is incapable of running malware LOL!" performed by Every Bad Actor and Their Mums!

      Not 'arf, pop pickers!

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Straight in at Number 1...

        Meh, it's just a Stock-Aitken-Waterman cover version of "Unbreakable" by Oracle, with extra Sitars overlaid.

  5. Mockup1974 Bronze badge

    Wow, an Android ROM! Very impressive, what a feat of engineering!

    1. Sp1z

      You gonna provide a Github link to the one you developed then?

  6. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Coat

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

    Then don't turn on the "elaboration" setting, whatever you do!

    1. Roland6 Silver badge
      Joke

      I suspect “Elaboration” is just a rebranded Google Play Services…

  7. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Given the current political situation, it will be interesting to see if "unable to run malware" is functionally the same as "the State will specify and control which apps you are allowed to run". For a government department that may not be a bad thing, but insisting it's used by the general populus could be very bad. For those who laughingly suggest 'it will be a challenge and someone will break it' - the sound of shackles and 20 years in an Indian prison for crimes against the State may be a deterrent.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      A deterrent to the average citizen, certainly. A deterrent to the kind of criminals who want to steal money, criminals who either operate from outside India or routinely give bribes to the Indian police like all the people targeting foreigners do, not so much.

  8. jmch Silver badge

    Interesting...

    "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."

    That is an excellent path to take, if that can be independently verified I hope the OS can be available outside of India

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

    What bollocks!

  9. nautica Silver badge
    Holmes

    I've read enough; it's GOT to be better than the alternatives.

    Given the only "options" I have, as so magnanimously provided by Google and Apple,

    I'LL TAKE ONE; and RIGHT NOW...and check it out later.

    1. MattAvan

      Re: I've read enough; it's GOT to be better than the alternatives.

      "it's GOT to be better than the alternatives." //

      Indian government: Challenge accepted!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Incapable of running malware"

    "Challenge accepted", said pretty much every hacker and security researcher on Earth.

    I wonder how long it'll take. Or how short, even.

  11. JoeCool Silver badge

    They're screwed ...

    if they are using the same India based developers that we are.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: They're screwed ...

      It varies. I had occasion recently to work with a team of Indian devs (redbaron.in, for those who want specifics) and I found them to be really helpful and quick to respond with new builds that met my requirements. Although the 11-hour timezone difference between us made for a lot of very late-night debug sessions!

      (I'd have done the dev work myself, but the scenario was: "we need 6 separate apps written, in time for a hard deadline. Which is 2½ weeks from now." Something-something failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part, but hey ho.)

    2. LateAgain

      Re: They're screwed ...

      Na. If you want to have fun put the call centre in Liverpool:-)

  12. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Hopefully if they are using AOSP then any changes or improvements will get fed back to the open source community

    1. MattAvan

      Clearly you haven't seen our government's websites here in India. The UI might improve to be more like Windows 95 and not in a good retro way.

  13. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
    Joke

    "Incapable of running malware"

    I can only hope that they curried out lots of testing prior to making that statement, in the madrash to release the public announcement.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: "Incapable of running malware"

      Ho ho. That was a fine Pune or play on words. Well done, though it sticks in the crore to say it.

  14. Malcolm Boura

    The Titanic was unsinkable.

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