BharOS: Everything you need to know about India’s new mobile OS
India’s mobile market is currently dominated by devices running Google’s Android operating system with a whopping 95.1 per cent market share. Apple’s iOS, in contrast, holds a mere 3.93 per cent of the market share. However, BharOS, a new mobile operating system developed by IIT Madras, could potentially pose a formidable challenge to Android’s dominance in the country.
IIT Madras recently held a conference where it unveiled BharOS, a new mobile operating system that places a significant emphasis on privacy and security. The institute said that the development of an indigenously developed mobile operating system will benefit more than 100 million mobile users in the country, providing them with a more customisable, privacy-centric, and secure operating system.
Regarding the project, Prof. V. Kamakoti, Director of IIT Madras, offered the following statement: “BharOS Service is a Mobile Operating System built on a foundation of trust, with a focus on providing users more freedom, control, and flexibility to choose and use only the apps that fit their needs. This innovative system promises to revolutionize the way users think about security and privacy on their mobile devices.”
So, what exactly is BharOS?
BharOS is an indigenously developed mobile operating system developed by JandK Operations Private Limited (JandKops), a non-profit company incubated at IIT Madras. BharOS is almost identical to Android OS as it is based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). However, unlike Google’s Android OS, it will not come preinstalled with any Google services at all. As a result, the new OS will be able to run most Android apps that do not require Google Play services.
In terms of features, BharOS is a user-friendly operating system that prioritises security and privacy, which are arguably two of its most critical features. It boasts a host of security features like kernel patch protection, encrypted file storage and sandboxing. Additionally, it provides added security such as a secure boot process, secure boot loader and secure update system.
As for pre-installed apps, BharOS will not have any default Google apps or services, such as Google Maps, Gmail, and Google search. Essentially, users will have the freedom to pick and choose which apps they want to install/sideload on their devices.
Instead of the default Google Play Store, BharOS devices will have access to a private app store service called PASS. This store reportedly features hand-picked apps that have been verified to comply with businesses’ privacy and security needs.
At this point, the current version of the OS comes with third-party apps like DuckDuckGo and Signal as default browsers and messaging applications, which is a desirable feature for privacy-conscious users.
Release of Indigenous #Atmanirbhar Mobile Operating System, “BharOS” today. The Operating System has been developed by #IITMadras incubated firm J and K Ops Pvt. Ltd. For full video: https://t.co/uWKIddveqV #AtmanirbharBharat #MakeInIndia pic.twitter.com/Groj8tb7wK— IIT Madras (@iitmadras) January 19, 2023
In its initial stage, BharOS is intended for businesses and organisations with specific security requirements and sensitive information. It has been reported that security updates will be provided through its native over-the-air updates. However, it is not yet clear which version of the Android core BharOS is currently based on.
Availability and Compatibility
At the moment, it is uncertain how and when users would be able to replace their pre-installed OS with BharOS. The team has yet to roll out an experimental build of the OS for public beta testing. Furthermore, the team has not provided any information on how long the operating system will receive software and security updates.
In addition, the team has yet to confirm which smartphones will support BharOS. At the moment, the institute has stated that the OS is supported by Google’s Pixel smartphones. There is also no confirmation from the team on whether BharOS will collaborate with OEMs to develop smartphones that support the operating system. At this juncture, all that is known is that BharOS is compatible with most native Android apps, except for those that require Google Play access.
BharOS could be a promising alternative to Android and iOS, especially for businesses and organisations in need of a secure and privacy-focused mobile operating system. While it may not replace Android yet, strong support from smartphone manufacturers and users is crucial for its adoption. Only time will tell if BharOS will ever be able to dethrone Android as the default mobile OS in India. For now, it seems to be a daunting task. But stranger things have happened in the tech world and if it does, we will be right here covering the story.