Author : Tronserve | Wednesday, 14 August 2019
China's Huawei Technologies on Friday launched its own smartphone operating system which it claimed could swap Google's Android in just "one to two days" if access to the world's most popular mobile platform were blocked by the U.S. The tech giant said its Harmony OS - pronounced Hongmeng in Chinese - was more flexible than Google's Android, capable of supporting all devices from smartphones and smart speakers to wearables, smart displays and next generation automobiles. The system was displayed at Huawei's annual developers' conference in Dongguan by Huawei's Consumer Electronics Group CEO Richard Yu.
"We can start using our Harmony OS anytime for smartphone and the migration from Google's Android to our own Harmony OS is not that difficult... We can do it in one to two days," Yu said.
Harmony OS is a key weapon in Huawei's fightback against the campaign by the U.S. government to restrict the technological development of the world's second biggest smartphone maker. It will allow the group to offer a common ecosystem of services and applications across all of its consumer devices. Nevertheless, in an implicit admission that Harmony OS could struggle in a consumer segment where 80% of all smartphones carry the Google system, Yu said Huawei would continue to prioritize using Android for its smartphones if allowed.
Huawei accelerated development of Harmony OS after the U.S. government blacklisted China's biggest tech company to restrict its access to American technologies in May. Several Japanese carriers had postponed selling the new Huawei models amid doubts about whether the Android system and popular apps like Gmail and Youtube would have access to Google upgrades. Most have since pressed ahead with sales, although it is still not clear whether the upgrades will be available.
Huawei planned to make Harmony open source to encourage wider use. "We want it [HarmonyOS] to be global so we want to invite developers to work with us as we build out this new ecosystem. We could together build a leading OS in the world." To realize the goal, the company proclaimed Friday it would spend $1 billion to support developers building a bigger ecosystem with Huawei.
Huawei initiated developing the system two years ago and now has 4,000 to 5,000 engineers working on Harmony OS, according to Yu. With a more unified ecosystem across various devices, it could offer better security against hacks than Android, Yu said. However, analysts said big challenges remained. "Harmony OS's biggest weakness is that it has not yet grown into an ecosystem. It does not yet have apps developed for the OS. That's why Huawei said the OS will be first available on smart screens under its sub-brand, instead of on smartphones," said Chiu Shih-fang, a veteran smartphone and supply chain analyst at Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.
If the Chinese company does not secure access to Google's service later this year, it is possible that sales of its upcoming smartphone lineups will take a hit in overseas markets as a result a lack of confidence among telecom operators and consumers, the analyst said. "However, it is still the right thing to do for Huawei in the longer term, to build its own operating system and eliminate its reliance on American companies, given the fast-changing geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing," Chiu said.
Huawei has up until now shown some resilience in the face of the U.S. restrictions but the Washington ban is still weighing on its smartphone business. Yu accepted that his company could not overtake Samsung Electronics as the world's biggest smartphone maker this year as it had hoped due to the trade tension and uncertainties in the market. Huawei's extremely awaited foldable smartphone, Mate X, a rival to Samsung's Galaxy Fold, will be available for customers as soon as next month but it could still be delayed as the device required additional tests on a 5G network, Yu told a small group of reporters in Dongguan on Friday. Samsung also delayed the launch of the Galaxy Fold to September due to quality issues. Both devices were introduced in February.
"We hope to still stay at the current position of the second-largest smartphone maker for 2019 but we could not achieve our previous goal to become world's No. 1 by the end of this year," Yu said.