Could the Chinese government supply what Linux needs to overtake Microsoft (MSFT) Windows once and for all? Within China, at least, that may happen, if the new Linux-based China Operating System (COS) lives up to developers' promises.

The new operating system, which the Chinese government announced last January, is designed to run on mobile devices as well as desktop PCs. (There's no word on whether it might target servers as well.) It's based on Linux, although the code for COS itself is closed source.

The "ultimate goal" of the OS, according to a representative of the development effort, is to supplant Microsoft Windows, Google's (GOOG) Android and other platforms of foreign origin as the software that powers computers within China. If COS succeeds in that ambitious endeavor, it would become the first Linux-based OS to make a serious impact on the dominance of big-name software vendors, at least within the Chinese market.

Of course, it's a safe bet that no Microsoft employees are shaking in their boots about an upstart desktop and mobile OS in China, where widepsread software piracy of Windows undercuts Microsoft's business anyway. And within the open source community, few Linux fans are likely to welcome a Linux-based OS that is not actually open source, and may not provide all of the freedoms that drive open source ideology.

On that note, maybe the Chinese government should take a hint from its North Korean neighbors, who use open versions of Linux more readily. They don't seem worried about insidious plots by Linus Torvalds.