Building an OS to compete with the likes of iOS and Android is no easy task, but it’s exactly what former Mozilla president Li Gong is hoping to do with his HTML5-based OS, H5OS.

Now CEO of Hong Kong-based Acadine,  Mr. Gong believes the market is ripe for a new entrant, and he plans on striking where he feels the major players have fallen short: the fast-growing internet of things (IoT) market. 

“The logical place to start for us is where they are weak or they are not meeting the customer’s requirements,” Mr. Gong told Technode, referring to the thousands of new IoT innovations cropping up in China. 

Acadine released the first build of their OS last week, seven months after they received $100 million USD in funding led by Chinese state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup. The company has now teamed up with Linaro, Alcatel, Thundersoft and Qualcomm to get their OS into products this year.

Mr. Gong believes the battery efficiency and low memory requirements of the HTML5-based OS makes it the “logical minimum system.” The company is now looking outside of China for their next round of investment.

Technode sat down with Acadine founder and CEO Li Gong to discuss the release H5OS and why he believes the market needs an HTML5 OS. (Edited Excerpts)

Why do you think the market needs H5OS?

If you look at the big picture tech, especially in systems in software, it tends to go in cycles: ten, fifteen, twenty years. Something new comes along that’s small, spiffy and very nice, and then as it becomes popular lots of things get added to it because it has to support lots of things. Before you know it you are locked into the era that has just gone by and you can no longer adapt and change your self to meet what it coming next. That’s typically what happens.

We were saying this ten years ago, twenty years ago — that we were trying to connect stuff,  but right now it’s really happening. We’re at the transition point of big change in terms the product, the devices that are becoming smart and you look at the traditional offerings none of them really fit what is happening now. That is the 10,000 foot view. 

On the ground, especially here in China literally hundreds of companies or thousands of companies are trying to make something smart, however building an OS in house requires a large investment of time and money. These companies also want to focus on innovations for their own products, and they want an OS that works on these products. H5OS is the logical minimum system. Everything needs the web, everything needs to be connected – but apart from that you don’t really need anything more as a basic operating system. 

What do you believe are the shortcomings of competing operating systems?

The problem is that a those systems are not designed for such small diverse set of devices. They’re defined for almost a single form factor, even the dimensions may change a bit from 4 inches to 5-6, but they are more or less designed for one category of devices.

And it’s not only a technology question, it’s a business question. I’ve worked with big companies and I understood clearly that even though everyone there understands dynamic dilemmas, when you are you faced with resource allocation choices they inevitably go down one path, because that’s their cash cow. When they have a successful product in the segment, they can see predictable returns if they put more resources into it.

These products are not adapting to anybody’s needs. If you talk to device makers almost none of them have any production or support from the [traditional] OS makers. They don’t talk to them, don’t listen to them and if you talk to a few [companies] who are big enough to have the engagement with them, you find out that their advice or input is not heard or taken in and their requirements are not matched. 

Are you seeking to replace the market share of major players or supplement it?

The logical place to start for us is where they are weak or they are not meeting the customer’s requirements. There is also a strong set of people that want something that strategically allows them to allow them to innovate later, which H5OS does.

Your biggest funding round to date is from Chinese state-backed Tsinghua Unigroup. Operating systems are a technology the Chinese government is seeking to localize, how are you dealing with these geopolitical issues?

We are keenly aware the geopolitical complications that may come up, we are trying our best to avoid that and stay out of it. Even though we have investment from this particular group, they do not controlling anything. They are an investor, they’re not  involved in our operations, and part of the reason for that is that we are open to funding from almost anybody

Operating systems cannot really succeed if they say that this is a US OS or this is the Chinese OS, because everyone ships product everywhere and you need to have global appeal for an OS to work. You can then localize for the specialized industry segment or customer.

H5OS is an international OS, and we are looking for funding to diversify our investor base.

What are you planning for your next round of funding?

Probably in the US or some other market. We also don’t want to be dominated by another big player in any one country

Who are the partners you are working with to get your software into products this year?

We are definitely not working in a vacuum. We are mostly working with device makers who ship the OS. It is also critically important for major chipset makers to support us. Because this is not like an open platform where you can just run their stuff on their chips, because if you want to fully utilize all the optimizations and innovations Qualcomm has done you can’t just buy their chip off the open market and run your program over the top, you have to be supported by Qualcomm. So aside from device makers we are also very close with chipset makers.

Cate Cadell

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or catecadell@technode.com

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