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India working on creating an indigenous mobile operating system, IndOS

India is working on a project to create an indigenous mobile operating system, tentatively titled IndOS, which is an initiative of the government, start-ups, and academia.

Top sources in the government say the objective is to create competition for Google’s Android in the mobile operating system market (accounting for over 97 per cent share) along with the Apple’s iOS, which comprises a smaller share.

Confirming the development, a senior government official said, “India is one of the largest mobile device markets in the globe. Our objective is to create a secure Indian mobile operating system that could also create choices and competition for Android’s dominance in the Indian market and a smaller share of iOS.” The move to build IndOS is significant as it comes at a time when Google is under scrutiny in the country and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has already slapped a fine for allegedly abusing its dominant position through the Android Play Store policy. It has also ordered Google to allow the sideloading of apps from developers to reduce its stranglehold in the business.

Leading mobile device makers have rejected Google’s contention, which the latter posted on a blog last week, that the responsibility for supporting the security and user safety features for sideloaded apps will now fall on them and that they will have to make additional investments to be able to do so, thereby making mobile phones expensive.

The device makers point out that supporting the security of sideloaded apps is not their responsibility, and it is up to Google and the government to decide as to who will be responsible for ensuring their security. “We offer a phone, and after sale to a customer, take care of certain warranties. Google has to figure out with the CCI or the government who will be responsible for the security of the sideloaded apps. Certainly, it is not us ” Instead home grown mobile makers support the move for a Indian operating system on the phones

Earlier, app developers had no option but to put their apps only through the Google Play Store, which scrutinises them for safety and security. Now the developers can do it directly, known as sideloading, which will doubtless weaken the domination of Play Store.

Domestic mobile device makers have also been pushing for an India mobile operating system, with or without the support of global tech companies like Google. They privately point out that the CCI move is the first step in that direction. A desi operating system will provide more security and safety for consumers from bad actors, they say.

Sources say that CCI’s decision has stirred up a hornet’s nest. If Google cannot secure sideloaded apps and mobile device makers also decline to do so, the government has to decide who will scrutinise these apps. “Otherwise we will have apps of many bad actors getting uploaded without any check,” says a source.

Others point out that since many hardware phone makers have their own app stores, the question is whether they will also be subjected to the same rules as Google and Apple Inc as a result of the CCI order.

Those in the business say that the CCI order will virtually force Google to change its business model. Under the model, Google offers the operating system free to mobile device brands and, in return, it installs some of their key apps as default on the phone.

Google makes money from advertising on these apps, telcos make money from data usage and the phone buyers are assured of an affordable phone. Based on the company’s own submission, even app developers benefit — 97 per cent don’t pay a commission for their presence on the app store. Only 3 per cent do, which are the big players like music and video streaming and gaming companies that sell their services on the platform.

If this model is disrupted, Google might charge the mobile brands for the operating system. And if they are also slapped with the responsibility to scrutinise the security and safety of sideloaded apps, which involve additional costs, it will lead to a substantial increase in the prices of phones. And this, experts say, may adversely impact India’s ambition of bringing in an inclusive digital revolution. Business Standard

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