As Huawei’s relationship with the US government has deteriorated, the White House has taken action to cut the company off from American partners like Google, forcing it to launch its Mate 30 range using the open-source version of Android and without Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube. This year, the White House restricted Huawei’s access to cutting-edge silicon with a ban on its use of technology with US origins, forcing chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung to cut-off their supplies to Huawei.
Under these pressures, Huawei is working furiously to establish alternative software and hardware solutions. According to the Global Times, Huawei has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the development of its own OS, Harmony OS. The OS has been in development since at least 2017. It is reportedly now at 70-80 per cent of the “performance features” of Android.
This week, Huawei consumer business group CEO Richard Yu presented Harmony OS 2.0 to the company’s developer conference, and confirmed that it will be installed on all its new smartphones in 2021.
A beta SDK is expected by the end of 2020 with the first major phone release around 2021.
“The latest version of Harmony OS has been officially opened to developers globally,” Yu said, according to the SCMP. “The Huawei mobile service system now has 1.8 million app developers and 490 million active users, as well as 96,000 apps.”
Harmony is a microkernel-based distributed OS which can integrate into a range of devices including wearables, smart speakers, and even in-vehicle systems. Yu said that Huawei would make an open-source version of Harmony available to other Chinese smartphone makers, encouraging consumers to build a shared system across their devices which Huawei presumably hopes will rival Android and iOS.
So far, Harmony OS has only been available on smart televisions.
Huawei will face an uphill battle tempting consumers to purchase smartphones – particularly high-end models nearing the $1,000 price tag – which use an unfamiliar OS launched years behind iOS and Android OS. Other rival mobile operating systems backed by tech giants like Microsoft have failed, in large part due to developers not bothering with platforms without large user bases.
At a Huawei developer event held in London earlier this year, however, Huawei wooed developers with £20m in investment for British and Irish developers and the promise of smart (targeted, engaging, and more context-specific) ads, which allow for “quality user acquisition”.