Can it be true that India developed an operating system at a time when industry heavyweights like Google and Apple have already established their territories and staked their claims? BharOS or BharatOS appears to be making the rounds on the internet, especially at a time when India is maximizing all available digital opportunities! This localized competitor could mean a safer and more secure digital future for India, but do the cards also say so? Taking a deep dive into all that we know about the operating system so far—what it's capable of and how it can serve India for the foreseeable future.
What is BharOS?
Enter BharatOS, or BharOS, an AOSP-based mobile operating system developed by an IIT Madras-incubated startup, JandKops. While we’ve all been depending on either Google or Apple, the government of India decided to take the issue of digital security into their own hands, which is how the seed of this indigenous, Linux-based operating system was born. Not just any operating system, but one capable of challenging Google and Apple's duopoly! This is also a messiah to India’s question of who would be the contender to deal with the issue of how the data of 100 crore smartphone users would be collected, stored, and used.
The Big Pro
This Android Open Source Project uses the same basics as the Android operating system; however, it functions separately from Google Services and Apps. When you purchase a typical smartphone, you'll see pre-installed Google apps and services that collect data. You aren’t asked to download it, but the applications and services are already there, presumably to make your life easier. Not to mention, many applications in the Google Play Store share data with third-party service providers. BharOS doesn’t come with these pre-installed applications, making it seem more secure!
Is it really any different from Android?
Since BharOS hasn’t been rolled out to the public yet, very little information on how it works is really available. But from what is out there, BharOS is actually a forked version of Android. This means it's not exactly an entirely new operating system. In a forked version, a developer can copy the code of the program and make changes accordingly without triggering copyright laws. It sounds like something along the lines of plagiarism, but not really! Google’s Android has been an open-source project since 2008, making it easier for developers to create an alternate version. There are many forked variants out there. Your Amazon Firestick has a forked version called FireOS!
You'd think that if forking was so simple, why wasn't it done sooner? The one main reason why people tend not to use forked variants is that they're more susceptible to hacking and data breaches. In BharOS, this is taken care of by allowing apps selected from Private App Store Services (PASS), a carefully selected group of apps that have undergone extensive security and privacy testing to meet the organization's standards.
Is BharOS a good choice for the average user?
BharOS has a democratic feel to it! You choose what applications you want on your phone. Not to mention the organization-specific private apps that have been thoroughly reviewed by PASS, which helps BharOS bring something new to stand apart from Google in the market. Your data cannot be outsourced to third-party applications because of the numerous security protocols that BharOS fulfills. It is said to have its own app store, effectively removing the Google Play store from the picture! BharOS also claims to have over-the-air updates, which means your OS will always stay updated and bug-free. Another major security feature that helps BharOS seal its victory is how it's programmed. BharOS will stop working the moment your phone is hacked! If security is your primary concern, especially in this day and age when data breaches are so common, BharOS appears to be a game changer!
How practical is it?
According to Jand K Operations Limited, BharOS is compatible with Pixel phones. BharOS is now claiming to be for organizations with strict privacy and security needs whose users handle confidential information. The developers have yet to reach out to organic manufacturers and persuade them to abandon the Android OS. How many will take the plunge is yet to be determined, as the risk factor here is huge. The developer support as well as the resources needed for this herculean task of shifting people from their ever-so-cozy comfort zones of Android and iOS is gigantic. Although Google has given the go-ahead to allow BharOS to use its apps, the whole idea of standing apart is questioned there. Here’s a question for you: Are you open to changing your email provider, which is probably Gmail since it’s so common? This would mean notifying everybody who might send you an email. It probably wouldn't float your boat right now, would it?
Not to mention that the majority of Indian Android phones are manufactured in China, so there's no reason for them to switch to BharOS. The Indian government would need to fund the project and deal with the cost of handsets to make this vision come true. The question herein lies: is it worth the hassle?
The stakes are high!
The stakes are high, and the water’s rough! The boisterous claims made by BharOS really would seem to be a boon if they made the cut! The aforementioned control and security appear to be too good to be true, but there is very little information available on Bharat's own OS know-how. However, to take on the dominance of the duopoly of Google and Apple, BharOS might not be quite ready yet. BharOS is not the first operating system developed in India, either! Bharat Operating System Solutions, its forerunner developed by the CDAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing) under the Ministry of Electronics and IT, was said to be a competitor for Microsoft’s Windows. We all saw how that turned out. We know now that BharOS may not be ready to challenge the duopoly of Google and Apple just yet, but we’ll need to sit back and watch its story unfolding.