Explore China’s Homegrown OS That Looks Eerily Familiar

I can’t put my finger on it.

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Sep 24 2015, 3:09pm

In a bid to unseat Windows as the dominant operating system in China, the country has been trying to foster a Chinese replacement. Behold NeoKylin: a cosmetic near-clone of Windows XP...running on Linux.

As Quartz reports, XP is still widely used in China, though Windows has been phasing out support for the now-ancient system. NeoKylin may have borrowed the appearance of XP just to make lifelong users more comfortable using a new OS, but it does feel a little like North Korea's rip of Mac OS X.

NeoKylin is made by China Standard Software, a company based in Shanghai. Aside from stimulating the national economy, China wanted an in-house OS for government use for security reasons. But now NeoKylin is being used more and more outside of the government, with a Dell representative telling Quartz that over 40 percent of their commercial PCs sold in China come with NeoKylin as the default OS—though that doesn't mean the user won't later replace it with a pirated copy of Windows.

Unfortunately, NeoKylin isn't very user-friendly, especially when it comes to installing third-party software. Quartz reports: "We were only able to install extra programs using the aforementioned yum, as is common in the Linux world...All the places yum usually looks to find programs appear to be disabled in NeoKylin, and have to be added manually by editing system files." Yikes.

Take a quick tour through NeoKylin guided by Quartz correspondent Nikhil Sonnad. It's like a blast from the past.