China hopes to ship the first version of a homegrown PC-based operating system in October. The system poses a major challenge to Microsoft's Windows, which is currently dominant in the country. And it will eventually be adapted to work on smart phones and tablets too.

A Reuters report says that a senior official involved with China's secretive OS project appeared on the Xinhua news agency on Sunday and claimed that the first release of the Chinese OS—which will run on desktop computers—will launch as soon as October, though it will be incomplete.

"Creating an environment that allows us to contend with Google, Apple and Microsoft: that is the key to success," the Chinese Academy of Engineering's Ni Guangnan told Xinhua. He heads the development alliance that is creating China's OS.

China's OS won't be mature enough to replace Windows anytime soon, however. Xinhua says that the desktop PC version won't be able to replace Windows for at least two years, and that the smart phone and tablet version is still three to five years from being viable.

The China OS is an attempt by that country to reduce its reliance on foreign technology and create software that is—or will eventually be—the equal of Windows and rival systems such as Linux, Android and Chrome OS. But China's efforts are more jingoistic than competitive. The government there has been spewing a steady stream of anti-western rhetoric for months now, even as China and its foes continue to spy on each other.

For obviously related reasons, it's been a weird few months for China/Microsoft relations.

In May, the Chinese government announced that it will ban the use of Windows 8 on government computers, though it provided no reasonable reason for doing so. (A China-based news agency says the ban was "to ensure computer security" in the wake of the expiration of support for Windows XP.)

At the end of July, China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce announced that it had launched an investigation of Microsoft on "suspicions of monopolistic behavior." Investigators visited several Microsoft offices in China, interviewed executives, and seized PCs, hard drives and documentation.

And then in early August the government of China abruptly warned Microsoft not to "interfere in or obstruct" the antitrust investigation. No explanation was given for the warning, but it's clear that the Chinese government is worried that Microsoft is helping the United States spy on the country and it does not want to get involved with the US government in another ugly international incident.