With Microsoft Inc's Windows 8 now banned from being installed on Chinese government computers, domestic operating system developers are seeking niches in the world's biggest personal computer market.
The country's relatively large OS developers, including China Standard Software Co and National Fundamental Software of China Ltd, have fresh opportunities, but their products face long and tough tests.
Last week, Windows 8 was banned from all desktops, laptops and tablet PCs purchased by State organs. The announcement made by the Central Government Procurement Center did not make it clear whether other Windows products were prohibited as well.
China's ambitious OS makers, which are developing products based on the openly sourced Linux system, took immediate action in response to the government ban.
"There are differences between Windows and Linux, but we are trying to make consumers feel it's almost the same when using our products," CSS said in a statement.
The company is a joint venture of China Electronics Corp and China Electronic Technology Group Corp, two State-owned enterprises.
CSS said its Neokylin Linux OS is "a safe and controlled product that meets the security demands for government, defence and other confidential fields".
Another OS designer, NFS, which is affiliated with the Software Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is marketing its products featuring "high security and special design for Chinese consumers".
"Domestic OS can support basic functions like processing text and pictures, playing music and videos and providing Internet services, although the user experience is not as good as Windows," said Ding Liping, a researcher with the institute.
One of the advantages that China's OS makers have is that their products usually have open source code, which allows programmers to design any software they need, according to CSS.
The country's rapidly expanding tablet PC and smart television markets also offer space for domestic OS makers, since most of these devices run Linux-based Android OS, said Yang Yilong, an official at IT company Knownsec Inc.
t's not uncommon for the country's self-developed software programs, which are written with Chinese users in mind, to beat foreign rivals.
Tencent Holdings Ltd's messaging software QQ has proven to be more popular than Microsoft Corp's MSN. Baidu does better than Google Inc's search engine for Chinese language users. Kingsoft Corp Ltd's WPS wins a large user base against Microsoft's Office.
More important, most of the domestic software programs are free or much cheaper than foreign products, and they're easy to download.
However, success in the business is not that easy, as development of an OS takes money and time.
Red Flag Software Technology Co, one of China's most promising OS makers, went bankrupt in February partly because of liquidity problems. Its products were not well received.
Tan Xiaosheng, a senior manager with IT companyQihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd, said whether domestic OS developers can make a difference relies on the opening up of the market.
"Many of China's IT giants have enough money to run an OS business. What they expect is preferential policies," Tan said, adding failures may recur if the country's OS market is dominated only by a few State-owned companies.
A Ministry of Industry and Information Technology spokesman signaled last month that the ministry would strengthen support for the development and application of Linux OS. But a detailed plan is yet to be released.