During a recent high school visit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev received an unusual request from a local student. In what was probably the most ambitious pitch of his young life, Marat Karatov asked President Medvedev for 1 million euros (~$1.39 million) to fund the open-source ReactOS project after a brief presentation.
Based on the Windows NT architecture, ReactOS aims to be a fully-functioning alternative to Microsoft’s venerable line of PC operating systems. The project is currently in its early alpha stages, so it’s nowhere near usable on a daily basis, but it’s current form was enough to make Medvedev take notice.
After a quick demo involving a ReactOS system booting up and running a few Windows-compatible programs, the president reportedly said the project was “interesting.” While this could be read as tacit approval for the project, it’s much more likely that President Medvedev will never think about ReactOS again.
It’s a shame, really: if fully funded, ReactOS could prove to be a unique answer to Russia’s rampant piracy issues. Sure, it would take a considerable amount of time and effort, but let’s say that the project is eventually completed and it fully approximates the Windows experience. It’s very possible that the use of pirated copies would dwindle when faced with a free, open-source alternative. One million euros from Medvedev (and the tacit backing of the Russian government) could go a long way in making sure Russian consumers get the functionality they need without potential sticky legal ramifications.
In fairness though, that could never happen. While an under-the-radar approach would be unlikely to draw much of Redmond’s ire, an attempt to create a Windows work-alike backed by the Russian government definitely would. While you have to give Mr. Karatov points for chutzpah, he’s better off looking elsewhere for funding.