Why India Beat China to Homegrown Smartphone OS

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/31/2016 01:16:00 PM
Indus OS accommodates the hundreds of millions of Indians who do not speak English.
There's an article in Bloomberg that portrays the success of India's homegrown smartphone operating system Indus OS to harnessing market forces instead of heavy-handed government intervention. To be sure, there are advantages to having one's own operating system instead of relying on off-the-shelf offerings from Apple (iOS) or Alphabet (Android). Aside from being to develop software meeting one's needs and desires, the royalties emanating from software and app sales accrue more to a nation's firms instead of the American tech giants.

Whereas India's Indus OS has overtaken iOS to rank second only to Android through market-friendly adaptations, the Chinese equivalents--there have been many--have been hamstrung by government nannyism and anti-market moves:
For more than 15 years, China has unsuccessfully attempted to come up with a homegrown operating system that would be loved by the masses and allow the country to be freed from the shackles of Western technological imperialism. India has achieved that feat in less than two years. Indus OS is now India's second-most popular smartphone platform with a 6.3 percent market share, behind Alphabet's [formerly Google's] Android.

The multilingual system, one of many based on Android itself, reached No. 2 at the end of 2015 and maintained that position in the first two quarters, according to data released this week by Counterpoint Research. It leads iOS and other Android variants including Xiaomi's MIUI and Cyanogen. 
China, on the other hand, has gotten nowhere with its approach in contrast to the adaptable Indus OS:
China's path toward operating system nationalism is littered with the shells of failures including China OS (COS), Kylin, Red Flag and YunOS. They were all unsuccessful in getting traction for varying but similar reasons that include being pushed by the government or by a corporation with skin in the game. It matters little whether they're for desktop or mobile devices, China has failed at both...

With at least 12 major Indian languages supported, Indus OS has tapped into what the market needs, not what a government wants. That's powerful because it means the software is developing and pivoting according to demand. For example, it offers simplified predictive typing and translation between regional languages.
To be fair, Indus OS is not an entirely "new" operating system but an Android offshoot. That said, there are still advantages accruing to Indian tech and telecoms firms from this difference:
Indus OS also offers carrier billing in its App Bazaar, which means users can pay for downloads via their phone bill, for which network providers likely take a cut. This is a big motivator not only for consumers and app publishers but also for the operators themselves, who are less than happy about being left out of a smartphone party where Android and iOS drink more than their fair share of the champagne.

Since it's in their best interests to have more phones on their networks that will bill through their payment systems, operators have an incentive to promote Indus OS devices. And in turn, smartphone makers have a good reason to develop Indus OS models over Android.
Is it the market (stupid)?
Such success shows how market forces can trump government directives, and the outcome also ends up playing out well for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make in India campaign...While Beijing has done a lot to try and wean the country off the dominance of American software makers, India shows that all it really takes is a good product and market forces.
I think this ending statement presents a more nuanced picture. Aside from harnessing market forces like the added self-interest of Indian tech and telecoms firms in developing and refining Indus OS, the end result is software that is better suited to usage contexts of India such as having to accommodate several dialects and such.

UPDATE: The Indus OS blurb neatly explains how it differs from others:
Indus OS is addressing one of the developing world’s biggest challenges – to develop technology to cater to the economic, social and regional diversity. In our mission, we are using the smartphone as the medium to connect the digital world with the masses. We are the first to deeply customize a smartphone experience that meets the real needs of the emerging market’s regional language speaking citizens through innovation, simplification and localization.