China switches on to Ubuntu in hunt for Windows XP successor

China switches on to Ubuntu in hunt for Windows XP successor

Summary: The Chinese-language Ubuntu Kylin OS has been downloaded more than one million times since its launch last year as the country looks to replace the soon to be unsupported Windows XP.


China's homegrown version of the Linux Ubuntu OS has racked up more than one million downloads in half a year.

The milestone for downloads of Ubuntu Kylin, part developed by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, comes as Microsoft prepares to end support for the country's most popular OS, Windows XP.

Windows XP is run by just under half of Chinese computer users according to figures from StatCounter, which tracks the OS used by visitors to websites worldwide.

The proportion of XP users has fallen in recent years, down from just over 60 percent in November 2012. While just over 40 percent of machines in China now run Windows 7, adoption of Windows 8 remains just below three percent, according to the same figures.

Last year, China's National Copyright Administration asked Microsoft to extend support for Windows XP in China, and resume sales of "low-cost" versions of Windows 7 that were discontinued at the launch of Windows 8.

Yan Xiaohong, deputy director of the National Copyright Administration, warned that failing to do so could hamper the uptake of genuine software in the country. The proportion of China's personal computers with pirated software installed fell to 77 percent in 2011, a record low, according to the Business Software Alliance.

There were 400,000 downloads of Ubuntu Kylin after its first release in April 2013, rising to more than 1.3m new downloads after its second release in October.

Relative to the Chinese population the number of downloads for Ubuntu Kylin is tiny, less than 0.1 percent of the 1.35 billion-strong population.

However Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, claims the figure is impressive for a downloadable operating system, since in China, as elsewhere in the world, PC owners prefer to get their OS pre-installed when they buy a device.

Kylin has been designed to suit the needs of Chinese users, with a full Chinese user interface, bespoke Chinese applications and integration with domestic services: such as music search from Baidu in the dash. It also includes Kingsoft WPS, one of China's most popular office suites.

Canonical worked with the China Software and Integrated Promotions Centre (CSIP), part of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the Chinese National University of Defense Technology, on developing Kylin.

"Ubuntu Kylin is a professional open source community implementation based on Ubuntu for Chinese users, which offers users a secure, localized experience that will be updated frequently by the Joint Lab and community," said Dr Qiu ShanQinm, president of CSIP.

Another domestic Linux OS in China, Red Flag Linux, recently shutdown, according to a report by the site TechInAsia.

More on China

Topics: Open Source, Enterprise Software, Linux, Ubuntu, China, PCs


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • better download this and use it on a spare PC

    In an Asia driven future (or should that be current?), device interfaces might well default to Mandarin.
    Android Dev Kit - phone simulator already defaults to this.
    Time to learn Mandarin I think.
    • why?

      China has its own to feed, is employing protectionism, is replacing workers with robots and automation... time to think different, I think.

      And what happened to their R&D centers where they helped develop Windows Vista, 7, 8, etc? Or $3 licenses...
      • Windows 8 UI is complicated/amateurish

        Americans complaining about Windows 8 won't make a difference to the Microsoft idiots. But the 1.35 billion Chinese bypassing Windows 8 for Linux will cause Microsoft to make an abrupt U-turn for a much better intuitive UI in Windows 9. :)

        LISTEN to the consumers. They are the ones who buy/don't buy your products.

        I have built dozens of computers over the years, and refurbished/upgraded many more. I'm the tech person friends/family ask for help.

        In my house I have two desktops with 27" monitors. They are out of arm's reach and I do NOT want to stand up to lean over and touch them. I want a UI with visible menus (yes, even a Start Menu) and I want an graphical interface with some depth -- not the amateurish ugly "flat" look.

        Something like the Classic Shell Start menu with even the option for the old XP flyout Programs Menu is FANTASTIC for desktop users. Why can't Microsoft add that as an OPTION?
        • 1.35 billion Chinese bypassing Windows 8 for Linux Where did you read that?

          Relative to the Chinese population the number of downloads for Ubuntu Kylin is tiny, less than 0.1 percent of the 1.35 billion-strong population.
          • which is about what you'd expect

            for any given Ubuntu fork in general :p
          • Maybe so...

            But according to the latest population figures in China that would be 1,362,391 people. So that would be like a good sized city all using Linux. Maybe not that impressive over all, but illustrative at least.

            I have a lot of indigent clients that have no choice but to switch. Maybe some of them will try R4W, as that may help ease them into something a little more comfortable.
          • 1.35 billion Chinese bypassing Windows 8 for Linux Where did you read that?

            Although it makes me happy, I too am curious where you read that. I have yet to recommend Windows 8 to anyone. I am also the go to guy in my family for computer related questions and help, and basically tech support for all of my friends and family. What will Windows 9 look like? Will Windows 8 eventually be looked at as a bad dream??

            Jeffrey Martin
        • Downloads! LOL!

          I've got nothing against Ubuntu, to me it is certainly the go to Linux. But, downloads of Ubuntu mean very little. It's like phone apps, how many do you download, play around with and then delete or ignore?

          It may very take China by storm, I don't know, but downloads mean nothing.
          • Downloads!

            Something you overlook is that you only need to download it once and can install it on as many devices you want.

            I think for my one download of Ubuntu 13.10 54 bit it was installed on 26 PCs.
        • Listen to the consumers? Apparently, you're not listening to the consumers

          and the consumers, for more than 30 years, have chose to use Windows, and they've continued using Windows through the many new versions of the OS. All through those years, there was choice, including Macs and Linux and even IBM's OS2 for some years. Clearly, the consumers spoke and decided to go with Windows. Windows 8/8.1 might be a shocking "new" version, but, it's still Windows, with 2 faces, and people are still able to choose which face to work with, including their old trusty Desktop-mode. Have you heard? MS has sold some 200 million licenses through the first 15 months of Windows 8, so, people are still making the decision to go with Windows-powered PCs. The people have been resistant with this new version, but, resistance can be overcome education and with familiarity and with patience. People are not so dumb that they can't learn to use a new interface in a couple of hours and be back to their old PC-savvy selves. Heck, even tablets and smartphones have learning curves, and in many cases, the learning curves are longer than that for Windows 8.

          You are not doing any favors to those around you by insisting that Windows 8 is not for them. It's actually the best OS with the best UI around, and it's even intuitive, and getting better with each new update. Linux, no matter what the flavor, is still 10-15 years behind the times in "intuitive" user interfaces. Heck, even iOS and Android are behind the times, and they'll be moving, in due time, more towards what Windows has achieved with the UI.
          • Listen to the consumers? Apparently, you're not listening to the consumers

            I have felt that if there were programs that happened to be compatible on windows AND the OTHER OS's at the same time then the OTHER OPERATING SYSTEMS would have won out in the beginning unfortunately there were not most if not all the programs were prioritized in one way or another to make THE ALL MIGHTY DOLLAR and that was all where Windows was shipped with the systems and you needed to buy a WINDOWS BASED PROGRAM to use with it. etc
          • It's impossible to know how things would have turned out, if certain other

            things had been different. So, you can take all the comfort you want from believing that things could have been different, "only if". Fact remains that competition did exist, and the competition was from varying sources, and in a variety of modes. An OS cannot exist for long if the ecosystem isn't created to get a huge number of developers creating applications for the OS, and even with a huge number of developers, the OS won't exist for long if the OS and the support it gets from the parent company isn't of superior quality. Without a product and it's accompanying ecosystem being adequate enough to attract the consumers and businesses, you can bet that it won't be around for long. Windows met all the challenges throughout its history, and the others didn't and haven't. But, the competition keeps trying, but they're still failing, and we now have such upstarts like Android and ChromeOS trying to eat into MS's OS market share, but they're not actually competing with the OS, but rather, they're trying to say that, a full-scale OS is not necessary anymore; that's a defeat for the competition right off the bat. They're just trying to change the battlefield.
          • Listening

            They have not been listening to the response to the Windows 8 UI. It has NOT gained popularity over time. Some people do like it, but is a minority, and a small one at that. Very, very few like it on the desktop. On the table and the phone it is great. On the PC, miserable.
        • Visible menus

          Totally agree, and I don't particularly care for the Ribbon menus either.
        • Re: Windows 8 UI is complicated/amateurish

          Before you keep bashing your head against Windows 8, please take a curse on comprehensive reading.
          1- The article states "downloads for Ubuntu Kylin is tiny, less than 0.1 percent of the 1.35 billion-strong population.
          2- Windows XP is around 60%, Windows 7 is 40% and Windows 8 is 3%. I believe a 3% beats a 0.1%.
          3- Another domestic Linux OS in China, Red Flag Linux, recently shutdown. Wonder why.
          4- A large amount of computers in China runs a pirated copy of Windows. Meaning they are not paying Microsoft for the use of their OS. The proportion of China's personal computers with pirated software installed fell to 77 percent in 2011, a record low. Still 77% of computers running pirated software is a lot, even if the numbers are for 2011.
          5- You have never try using Windows 8. If you had, you will know you can use Windows 8 with a mouse and keyboard. Don't need a touch screen to use it.

          This beg the question are you a liar or ignorant?
        • Microsoft doesn't listen to its customers

          As a frequent user of Outlook (and the rest of Office), I fail to understand why MS has made the title bar indistinguishable from the rest of the window. One of the results of this stupidity is that unless an opened email is full screen, I often click on the Outlook close button instead of the email close button. OK, it's just another double-click to reopen Outlook but it's irritating nonetheless. Title bars should STAND OUT, not be the same colour as the rest of the window. Moreover, the ability to change this by the user seems to have been removed. I am shortly retiring and shall be exploring the world of Linux once I am no longer chained to the company's Windows base.
          Microsoft doesn't seem to understand "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
        • why buy ANY OS?

          I doubt many of the OS licenses for any MS OS are legit. They don't need to buy an OS from MS when they are still commonly, although not entirely openly available.
          Certainly very few of the XP installs are legit!
  • M$ days are numbered

    Trying to force an unpalatable OS on the world was a big mistake for M$. The pace of people/governments/industries converting to Linux will just increase and M$ moves too slow to change things. Hell, M$ is still trying to catch up with smart phones and tablets.

    So long M$ it was good to know you.
    • Too bad you don't believe that Frank

      Yes, I know you post that drivel pretending you believe that, but I can tell when someone trying to push a snow job on everyone.

      The question is, what are you so afraid of?
      • What makes you think hes afraid?

        Or are you projecting your own fears?