Huawei’s Hongmeng OS is real but it isn’t designed to replace Android – in fact, it’s not even meant for smartphones. Huawei board member and senior vice president Catherine Chen made the startling revelation during a media roundtable in Brussels – via Xinhua – adding that the company “intends to continue using Android.” Huawei has been working on a home-made answer to Google’s Android for a while now – and it was widely being speculated that Hongmeng (Harmony in global markets) would be that OS.
According to Chen, Hongmeng contains much fewer lines of codes (just hundreds of thousands) as opposed to an operating system for smartphones (with dozens of millions) - which makes it more secure. Although Chen did not mention the kind of devices that would be powered by Hongmeng in the days to come, it could be meant for server deployments. Hongmeng is also said to offer extreme low latency as compared to a smartphone operating system like Android.
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 its in-house operating system comes into the picture. Not a lot is known about Huawei’s alternate take on Android, but a recent report suggested that the platform was currently on trial in China.
"Today, Huawei, we are still committed to Microsoft Windows and Google Android," Huawei’s head of consumer business Richard Yu told recently CNBC. "But if we cannot use that, Huawei will prepare the plan B to use our own OS.”