Led by University of Tokyo Professor Ken Sakamura in mid 1980’s,
supported by the Japanese government, and embraced by practically all of
the key players in the Japanese electronics industry, Japan, in a
project called TRON, succeeded in developing its own indigenous open
real-time operating system kernel. Subsequently, an Industrial TRON
(iTRON) derivative was born, becoming one of the most successful
operating systems in embedded systems such as cellphones, appliances and
sometimes even in cars in Japan.
Japan’s goal then was clear. A
nation needs its own operating system to create and control an ideal
computer architecture and network.
While I admit that I’m amazed at the success of iTRON, I think that China should pay attention to what happened next in Japan.
developed TRON to stem the onslaught of technologies coming from the
United States. But iTRON never penetrated the global market, and no
Japanese company saw significant gains by sticking their guns to iTRON. And
iTron ended up getting used only in products made by Japanese companies
for the Japanese market.
The hard lesson for Japan was that
“containment” is a strategy that might work in geopolitics, but it
rarely applies to technology and business fields. Advancements in
technology and discoveries in science happen regardless of national
Japan’s pursuit of proprietary technologies only helped
Japanese electronics companies to delay their embrace of operating
systems developed abroad (Windows, Symbian, Linux included) and
associated software applications. It also held back Japanese product
development for the overseas market – especially now in the burgeoning
China could argue that the sheer size of its domestic market will alter that picture.
might say that it’s not the Chinese who will suffer, but overseas
vendors coming to China who will be forced to license proprietary
technologies from China.
We’ve all heard that argument before.
again, name a Chinese technology that proves the Chinese technocrats’
argument. Ostensibly, TD-SCDMA, China’s alternative to W-CDMA, is a
possible example. Perhaps. But in the end, even China Mobile, the only
Chinese cellular network operator who embraced TD-SCDMA, ended up
requiring their next-generation LTE handsets to be compatible with not
just TD-LTE, but practically all flavors of global wireless standards.
In today’s well-connected global world, neither one country nor a single proprietary technology gets to be king of the world.