If there’s anywhere that could care less about the Apple-Android patent battles, it’s Moscow. In the capital of the former USSR, the state is shaking off the shackles of the United States consumer electronics market and building its own devices. At least, it’s trying to.
The newest state-made gadget is a tablet that the state-run RT news service is calling the RuPad. (Note: This is a horrible name.) The tablet is built to spec so that it’s competitive with the spectrum of U.S.-made tablets on the market and will use Glonass, the Russian equivalent to GPS, for navigation purposes. Unveiled this week at the Berlin consumer electronics show, the tablet uses an Android-like operating system called the Russian Mobile Operating System, or RoMOS for short. (Also a horrible name!) At 15,000 rubles (about $460) it’s about twice the price of a new Google Nexus tablet.
Russia’s not really trying to compete with Google. They’re trying to replace it. The main motivation behind building the RuPad (horrible name) is for the Russian government to develop a device that’s free of the search giant’s death grip on user data. The AFP reports, “A major concern for Russian defence chiefs is that data collected and stored by Google could slip into the hands of the US government and expose some of their most secret and sensitive communications.” As such, Russia will manufacture two different versions of the new tablet, one regular version for consumers and one shockproof, waterproof, super secure version for the military. Of course, the military gets first dibs.
Assuming people actually buy this thing, you can’t help but wonder what the Russian government will be doing with all that user data. The country is famous for its dodgy treatment of human rights, especially privacy, and is looking increasingly hostile towards digital rights. Just earlier this year, the Russian parliament passed controversial legislation that will effectively build a China-style firewall around the Internet. Now that the state is building the devices, writing the operating system and controlling access to the web, it’s easy to imagine how this puts Russian citizens even more vulnerable to government control.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. This is all assuming people actually buy the thing. The Russian government’s already tried to break in to the smartphone market. It did not go well.