HP will ship PCs running the Chinese-language version of Ubuntu, the first manufacturer to do so, in what may be a move to capitalise on millions of Chinese people looking for a successor to Windows XP.
Despite Microsoft ending support for the Windows XP operating system in April this year, about 40 percent of computer users in China still run the OS, according to figures from StatCounter, which tracks the OS used by visitors to websites worldwide.
The proportion of XP users in the country has fallen in recent years, down from just over 60 percent in November 2012. Meanwhile, adoption of Windows 8 remains just above three percent — about half the global rate, according to the same figures.
By selling PCs with Ubuntu Kylin preinstalled, HP may be looking for a way to cash in on those Chinese computer users wanting to shift from XP but reluctant to buy a Windows 8 machine.
Canonical — the company behind Ubuntu — says that computer users in China, as elsewhere in the world, prefer to get their OS pre-installed when they buy a device, so the deal with HP may be significant in growing Kylin's user base.
"The teams have been working hard developing fully tested and certified pre-installed images of Ubuntu Kylin for our PC hardware partners and are looking forward to working with them to bring a range of devices to the China market in the near future," a Canonical spokeswoman said in a statement.
Canonical reports the Kylin OS continues to grow in popularity, with more than three million downloads of Kylin since its release 12 months ago. One million of these downloads followed the end of support for XP, and the release of the latest 14.04 LTS version, in April.
Relative to the Chinese population the number of downloads for Ubuntu Kylin is still tiny, about 0.2 percent of the 1.36 billion-strong population.
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.
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.