Sunday, 11 August 2019 13:19

Huawei sounds warning to US and Google with launch of open source HarmonyOS Featured

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Huawei Technologies would prefer to keep using Android in its smartphones but with the launch yesterday of HarmonyOS its own open source cross platform operating system, the Chinese telecoms giant has signalled that it is not prepared to take US sanctions against the company lying down.

That is the message delivered by Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei consumer division to a packed Huawei Developer Conference 2019 in Dongguan on Friday.

“If we cannot use Android in the future we can immediately switch to HarmonyOS,” Yu told the audience at the conference.

Known in China as Hongmeng, HarmonyOS is not only open source - a point reportedly enthusiastically received by the audience - but has been developed to be cross platform to include PCs, tablets, IoT edge devices.

Since being placed on the US “Entity List”, defined as “a significant risk of being or becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States”, in May this year, Huawei has been faced with the prospect of being banned from using Google’s Android, Microsoft Windows, Qualcomm and Intel chips and other US technology.

Huawei, the largest telco and second largest smartphone company in the world, has said that this has forced the company to become more self reliant on its own technology.

This is especially critical for Huawei as the ban comes on the eve of the burgeoning 5G smartphone market evolution.

However, developing a new operating system for smartphones is one thing but building a ubiquitous ecosystem of apps to support it is quite another.

For smartphone users, the Android and Apple app stores are considered to be an indispensable part of their respective operating system environments. For example, it is hard to imagine buying a smartphone without Google Maps (or an equivalent) and the myriad of messaging and social media apps being available.

In China, where about half of Huawei’s smartphones are sold, the company already has a well established local app store but at present there is nothing outside the Android ecosystem available for Huawei phones in the wider world.

At the developers conference, Richard Yu said that making HarmonyOS open source would help to make the development of the necessary ecosystem faster. With a massive existing installed base of hundreds of millions globally, it would be hard to imagine app developers passing up the opportunity to port their apps over to HarmonyOS.

In addition, Huawei has stressed that HarmonyOS will be more than just a smartphone operating system and is built to encompass a range of device platforms.

“The Harmony OS is built to work across different devices synchronously and support Tablets, Smartphones, PC, TVs, Wearables and more,“ the company told website Huaweicentral.com.

Claiming to have an operating system suitable for the entire gamut of user devices is an ambitious vision but with a substantial user base in its own country, as well as the rest of the world, it would be far from wise to be dismissive of this.

At the same conference, Huawei has announced that its subsidiary smartphone brand HONOR launched HONOR Vision, what the company says is “the world's first smart screen equipped with HarmonyOS”.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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