Huawei unveils HarmonyOS as Android alternative

Saturday, 10 Aug, 2019

Developing an operating system and the entire ecosystem that accompanies it is a complex affair.

However, Huawei said HarmonyOS would first be used in devices such as smart speakers and watches, rather than replacing Android in its phones.

Speculation had been rife for months over Huawei's secret in-house OS.

The possibility of losing access to world's most popular mobile OS arose after the U.S. placed Huawei on its so-called "Entity List", effectively barring American companies from doing business with the Chinese tech giant. Not only this, but the Play Services from Google were also now beyond reach for Huawei.

That hope, though, relies on many uncertainties.

In May, Google suspended the company's Android licence after the United States government put Huawei on a trade blacklist. However, the company will still remain with Android for now.

The CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, Richard Yu, announced the new OS just as Huawei Developer Conference (HDC) 2019 is about to begin in Dongguan, China. But he added that Android will remain its first choice for now, as long as it's still available.

On Thursday, Beijing slammed the U.S. for releasing new rules banning Huawei and other Chinese companies from government contracts, saying they amounted to an "abuse of state power".

Amid the standoff, the company has insisted that nothing would change for existing Huawei device users and their phones - all now running Android - would continue to function as normal.

It is built to adapt to whichever device it is installed on - meaning it can be deployed across a vast range of device types - making it closer to Google Fuchsia than to Android in its functionality. The company said the HarmonyOS is a microkernel-based distributed OS for all platforms including mobile phones, wearables, laptops, and televisions.

This means Huawei devices will presumably be treated to improved notifications, refined permissions and new gesture navigations.

Kernels are programs that stand at the core of an OS.

Yu said the development of HarmonyOS will depend on a dynamic ecosystem of apps and developers. The truth is more nuanced - it's believed Huawei has been working on HarmonyOS for seven years, though it could be that work accelerated as tensions grew in the big wide world.

With support for Motion Estimation/Compensation, HDR, Super Resolution, Noise Reduction, Dynamic Contrast Improvement, Auto Color Management and Local Dimming, it's clearly smart, and if it's anything like the products Honor has launched in the smartphone world, it will be competitively priced.

Consumers who already owned Huawei smartphones were largely unaffected, Google said in May. "But if you look at smart displays, the field is relatively open..." Yu stated that the new OS will run "faster and safer" than Android. And Google's other Android-based initiatives, like Android TV, Android Auto, and Android Things, have all struggled. Over the next three years, the company plans to introduce the OS to more devices. Others like phone manufacturers to come up ... Huawei, it seems, could now do the same.

The Chinese tech giant said that the OS will first launch in China and then expand globally over time.