Huawei has officially announced HarmonyOS – called Hongmeng OS in China – its pan B operating system designed from ground up to potentially replace Android on all its future smartphones (and Windows on its upcoming laptops). Huawei in fact is going a step ahead, claiming that its microkernel-based HarmonyOS, is a distributed OS for all scenarios - smartphones, laptops, wearables, basically all connected devices.
At its developer conference 2019 in China, Huawei announced that it will kick off proceedings with smart TVs - possibly by the end of this year – followed by wearables and laptops by 2020. The company is still bullish about its future with Google’s Android, which is why it is still sticking to the script – it will only use HarmonyOS in its smartphones in the worst-case scenario.
At the same time, Huawei seems confident about its home-grown operating system – in fact, it is going so far as to say that HarmonyOS is faster, smoother (due to the presence of a dedicated deterministic latency engine and its light-weight nature in general) and more secure (due to its microkernel design) than Android. HarmonyOS will be open source (like much of Android is) with its own ARK compiler and it will support existing Android apps, Huawei has confirmed.
Huawei has been in the thick of things lately. The Chinese conglomerate has been effectively barred from using Android in the long-term following a recent US trade clampdown. Even though Android is open source and even though Huawei is free to use this open source version of Android (called AOSP), Google has been gradually moving OS essentials out – which means a large part of the Android that we use now isn’t open source per se. This includes everything from the Google Play Store to apps like Google Maps and Gmail.
Without proper authorization from Google, Huawei can’t even update its existing Android devices with latest security patches. And Google can’t authorize that until it gets a go-ahead from the US government.
The recently concluded G20 summit raised hope that China and the US are in-sync to find some sort of middle ground – the summit also ended on a positive note with President Trump giving a ‘verbal’ go-ahead to US companies to start selling products to Huawei. Huawei still isn’t off the ‘entity list’ though which means US companies will still require some sort of approval from the Trump administration before selling their components to the company.
Which is where HarmonyOS comes into the picture. And one can’t help but notice the ‘strategic’ naming to reflect how Huawei wants to work in ‘harmony’ with Google, Microsoft, et al (basically all major US-based tech companies) towards the ‘shared’ betterment of the industry as a whole – something that it has also been very vocal about.