A free, open-source Windows “clone” – ReactOS – that has been in development for over a decade has caught the eye of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
A student at a Russian high school the president visited recently gave Mr Medvedev a brief overview of the project – and asked him for 1m euros.
The system’s developers say it runs all Windows programs, but is much faster than its Microsoft equivalent.
If it gets a financial boost, it could be usable in the near future, they add.
Contrary to Linux and other non-Windows operating systems, ReactOS is a community-driven international initiative that is said to be fully compatible with all Windows-based applications, programs and services.
The venture’s project coordinator, Moscow-based Aleksey Bragin, said that the system was almost ready to go from the experimental to the available-to-all stage.
And a recent unexpected conversation between a high school student and the Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev could help obtain the much-needed funding to apply the final touches.
“Mr Medvedev visited a high school in the Stavropol region, and as a coincidence, one of our developers, Marat Karatov, studies there,” said Mr Bragin.
“So Marat decided to use this chance and tell the president about our free, non-commercial initiative, and he also quite unexpectedly said that for the project to make it to the finish line we would need 1 mln euros ($1,370,184, £865,578).
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Microsoft has an absolute monopoly and no real rivals, and there’s nothing good about it”
“And Mr Medvedev replied that he’ll think about it, adding that the project was indeed very interesting.”
According to a ReactOS developer Aleksandr Rechitsky, once the
operating system is installed on a PC, the end user should not notice any difference from Windows.
“Microsoft has an absolute monopoly and no real rivals, and there’s nothing good about it,” he said.
“There’s absolutely nothing to replace Windows with, and if you decide to switch to a different operating system, you then have to change all the programs as well.
“But in this case you can change the system but leave all the programs intact.”
The developers added that ReactOS was much faster, too – if on a standard PC Windows takes about a minute to load, ReactOS will only take about 10 seconds.
If there was sufficient funding, it would take about a year for the project to make it to the real world, said Mr Rechitsky.
For now, most desktop computers still use Windows, but other operating systems available include Apple’s Mac OS X and Linux.
Microsoft has recently shown off early releases of the next version of Windows – Windows 8 – that will run on tablets, phones and desktop computers.
It is expected to be available before October 2012.
By Katia Moskvitch
Technology reporter, BBC News