Chinese computer OS maker releases AI-focused openKylin to tap potential PC demand boost

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China’s first home-grown open source desktop operating system (OS) openKylin has launched a new version for artificial intelligence (AI) personal computers (PCs), as the country ramps up efforts to reduce reliance on foreign systems amid a global AI boom.
OpenKylin for AIPC, launched on Sunday, is “deeply integrated” with AI technology with support for on-device large language models (LLMs), and comes with features that include an AI assistant and text-to-image generation, the community that maintains the OS said in a WeChat post on Monday.

AI is bringing new challenges and opportunities for infrastructure software, the community said. The goal with openKylin for AIPC is to “significantly improve” work efficiency and the creative experience for users of home-grown operating systems, according to the group.

In a report on Monday, China’s state-run newspaper Science and Technology Daily called the AI version of openKylin “secure, stable and controllable”.

OpenKylin is designed to have the look and feel of Microsoft Windows, on which the Chinese government has been pushing to reduce its reliance. Photo: openKylin
The original version of openKylin was released in 2022, following efforts in China spanning decades to create a domestic alternative to Microsoft Windows and Apple’s macOS.

Escalating US-China trade tensions have only intensified Beijing’s push for technological self-sufficiency.

The central government has recently made a more concerted push to wean itself off of Windows and foreign chips such as those from Intel. Many sensitive government initiatives run on systems based on Kylin, the closed-source version of openKylin, the core of which is guarded as a state secret.

The open-source code community was started jointly by Kylinsoft – the maker of Linux-based Kylin and a subsidiary of state-owned China Electronics – along with more than 10 other Chinese entities, including the National Industrial Information Security Development Research Centre.

In July last year, the community released its first open-source desktop OS, openKylin 1.0, which it said was built by 3,876 developers with contributions from 271 companies.

Home-grown operating systems have made little headway over the years. Windows commanded nearly 80 per cent of the China market as of June this year, according to data analytics firm StatCounter.

OpenKylin is now betting on the same industry wide trend of AI PCs, which is being driven by the hope that AI applications can reinvigorate PC demand. AI PCs refer to computers equipped with processors that are advanced enough to comfortably run some generative AI tasks locally instead of processing queries in the cloud.

The race to introduce such devices to the market has escalated this year after Microsoft announced Copilot+ PCs, which run Microsoft’s own Copilot generative AI software and require a neural processing unit capable of handling at least 40 trillion operations per second, a measurement of the speed with which an AI model can respond to a query.

Luca Rossi, an executive vice-president at Lenovo Group, which makes its own Copilot+ PCs, told the Post in May that China will be a “distinct place” for AI PCs because of its data localisation requirements.

With the absence of popular foreign generative AI services such as Copilot and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Chinese AI PCs will also need to rely on domestic LLMs.

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