Today marked the long-awaited launch of the Smartisan OS, a mobile operating system, by Chinese company Hammer Technologies. Video, pictures, and reports on the event made a big splash among Chinese internet users, with related words accounting for three of the top five trending terms on Sina Weibo, a top Chinese social media platform.
Luo Yonghao, CEO of the company, spoke at length about the origins of his company and the new features that would set the Smartisan OS apart from its international and domestic competition. One feature he spoke of was the option to institute a 3-second delay on all text messages, to help users avoid the embarrassment of sending the wrong text to the wrong person. While the Smaritsan OS is designed to work with Chinese phones made by Xiaomi and Meizu – known as China’s “iPhone killers,” as well HTC and Samsung technology, no such claim was made about Apple products.
Toward the end of his speech, Luo commented, “Our objective is to kill off Apple eventually.” Recently, China’s state-run media has gone after Apple, running a consumer rights exposé on its after-sales services and asking social media celebrities to post negative remarks about the company online. The debut of the Smartisan OS comes at a time when China is trying to promote homegrown technological innovation and make space for Chinese companies in the smartphone sector, which is currently dominated by international companies like Apple.
The Smartisan OS represents a transformation of the Made in China status quo, in which products developed abroad are assembled cheaply in Chinese factories. Whether or not the OS succeeds, the attempt signifies a movement on the part of Chinese companies to force an industry shift.
“We’ll release a public beta for download on June 15, and roll out our hardware early next year,” Luo announced. “Only our own hardware is good enough for our software, and only our software is good enough for our hardware.”
Some critics have called Luo “ambitious,” while raising doubts about how innovative the operating system will be. Zhu Weilian, CEO of Rainstorm Recreations, echoed the sentiments of many when he wrote, “I don’t think much of Luo Yonghao’s Hammer Technologies. My feeling is that most products that depend so much on promotion don’t succeed. Products that are actually good depend not on word-of-mouth promotion but on the user experience. Technology wins over users, while fast talking only results in fiction. If I’m wrong, I’ll personally buy 100 of those Hammer Technologies phones myself to give to my fans.”
Lao Cha, secretary of Mobile China Alliance, a cellphone maker trade body, saw larger problems in the launch: “[Luo] made a few small changes and now he’s talking peoples’ ears off. It’s a shame that so many people are taken in. It’s no wonder there is no true innovation in China; Hammer Technologies innovation is typical China-style innovation.” Another internet user saw a silver lining in a somewhat disappointing event. “Whether or not this succeeds, domestic Android ROM development has gone from strictly translating high-level foreign ROM to several people developing their own ROM, to what we have now – teams competing to make ROM. It’s already a kind of progress.”
While the launch has ended, it will be several months before users can try out the new operating system for themselves and pass judgment. In the meantime, debate among tech giants and product users will continue, as China’s domestic companies maneuver to stake out territory in these promising markets.