Kai-Fu Lee, the former president of Google’s China operation, is set to launch a new mobile operating system in the next few weeks called Tapas according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s based on Google’s open source Android operating system, but is tailored for the Chinese market with additional software that can identify which city a person is calling from, the ability to sync contacts with Chinese social networks, a music player that goes out to the internet and grabs the lyrics to the song currently playing and then displays said lyrics on screen, as well as an eBook reader. Hardware partners that have committed to launching Tapas based devices are Sharp, Haier and Tianyu.
Along with Tapas, Mr. Lee is also responsible for Wonderpod, an Android application that launched 2 months ago that sits as a front end for several of China’s leading online distribution platforms, including Youku.com and Tudou.com. Both of these projects are funded by Mr. Lee’s company, Innovation Works, which he launched after leaving Google over a year ago. Innovation Works has funded 12 projects thus far, and plans on committing to up to 15 more per year.
This is an exciting time for China who is now trying to break through the stigma that they’re doing nothing but copying products and services from the west, but instead trying to create solutions tailored specifically for a market of over 1 billion people who will soon be demanding smartphones and the ability to browse the mobile web at speeds we’ve been enjoying in Europe and America for quite some time. Whether or not Tapas takes off is debatable. Chinese operator China Mobile has their own mobile operating system called oPhone that’s based off of Android and it has not achieved what anyone would remotely called a success.
Time will fix this, I’m sure of it. China’s got the talent, they just need some experience in polishing.