Huawei’s HarmonyOS Is Still Far From Being A Real Competitor For Android

Since the banning of Huawei by Donald Trump in mid-May 2019, there had been many rumors that a mobile operating system developed by the Chinese giant was being prepared. Several names have appeared in the rumors in recent weeks. Thus, this operating system developed over several years as an alternative to Android was first called Hongmeng and then HarmonyOS. During the month of July, benchmarks emerged announcing performances well above those of Android. Huawei had calmed down some people’s enthusiasm by announcing two weeks ago that this OS was far from being operational.

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The strengthening of the trade war between the United States and China finally had to decide Huawei accelerated his roadmap. Thus, the Chinese company has just officialized its homemade operating system that could serve as an alternative to Android. The rumors about its name were ultimately true as this operating system will be named HarmonyOS worldwide and Hongmeng OS on the Chinese market.

HarmonyOS Is A Unified Operating System For Everything

Huawei presented HarmonyOS as a modern system, designed to take into account the recent increase in the number of connected devices in our homes. HarmonyOS is thus a unified operating system that works for everything : smartphones, tablets, computers, televisions or connected objects. From a technical point of view, the Chinese giant announces that it is the first micro-kernel-based system designed for all types of devices and all use scenarios.

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In this way, it approaches Google Fuchsia, which is still under development on the Mountain View side. The performances are announced higher than those of Android or iOS for example. Huawei explains that this is due to the fact that the company has chosen not to rely on Linux and Unix, which were not originally designed to take into account all these connected device formats.

Thus, the new architecture at the heart of HarmonyOS makes it perfectly optimized with a RAM memory consumption limited to a small portion and a latency reduced to a minimum. The goal is to have smooth interactive experiences regardless of the connected device on which HarmonyOS will run.

HarmonyOS Will Be Fully Open Source

Even better, Huawei has announced that its brand new OS will be totally Open Source. Huawei hopes to stimulate its adoption by other actors by doing so. As such, HarmonyOS is an alternative to the Android Open Source Project. In order to limit security risks, Huawei also specified that HarmonyOS root mode will give less access to the most sensitive parts of the system and in particular its kernel. Geeks who love to tinker with their Android devices will probably be disappointed on this point.

No HarmonyOS On Smartphones And Tablets Yet

During the HarmonyOS announcement, Huawei unveiled a clear roadmap of the upcoming deadlines for its new operating system. Thus, HarmonyOS is expected to be first commercialized on a television by the end of 2019. To do this, Huawei will take advantage of the launch of the Honor Smart Screen, which has been talked about for several months now.

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Once the first launch will be completed, HarmonyOS will equip all new Huawei watches and bracelets from 2020. Some of the brand’s notebook models could also be launched with HarmonyOS. In 2021, it will be the turn of connected speakers and headphones to be launched using HarmonyOS. Finally, Huawei talks about a launch of augmented reality glasses under his home OS in 2022.

In this roadmap, there is no reference to a launch of HarmonyOS on smartphones and tablets. The reason is simple, since Huawei explains that he wants to continue using Android if he is given the opportunity. It is for this reason that the Chinese company also presented its new EMUI 10 interface based on Android 10 Q during the same event.

While waiting to know what the final consequences of the trade war between the United States and China will be, Huawei has therefore put himself in battle to be ready to do without Android for its smartphones and tablets if necessary. Huawei’s message is therefore clear: priority for Android for the moment but in the event of the permanent loss of the Android license, the company will be ready by 2020 to launch all its smartphones and tablets under HarmonyOS.

The Problem Of Applications Remains Unresolved For Huawei

The failures of Windows Phone and Firefox OS to become alternatives to Android and iOS in the world of mobile operating systems clearly show what makes the difference for a modern system. And of course this is the applications ecosystem. The open source Android project without the added value of Google services, and in particular its famous Google Play Store, no longer represents the same thing. Indeed, the Google Play Store provides consumers with more than 2.5 million downloadable applications. That’s what makes Android so strong.

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Number of Available Apps in the Google Play Store according Statista

To fight and eventually become a real alternative to Android, Huawei still has a long way to go and in particular to solve the problem of the applications ecosystem. In order to address this issue, Huawei announced that HarmonyOS supports applications developed in Java, C/C++, JavaScript/HTML5 and Kotlin. Besides, Android applications developed for the Google Play Store will be compatible but they will have to be recompiled specifically for HarmonyOS, which is, in my opinion, a big black spot.

Indeed, Huawei will have to convince thousands of developers to specifically recompile their applications for HarmonyOS. This is something that will not be easy to obtain. If Huawei were to be forced to launch its smartphones and tablets on HarmonyOS, there would be a big problem with the applications available.

In order to solve this problem, Huawei intends to rely on the forced Chinese domestic market. Thus, the brand would consider launching HarmonyOS on some smartphones and tablets only in China in the immediate future. This could start with the Huawei Mate 30 Lite which could be the first smartphone running Hongmeng OS with a launch in the coming months on the Chinese market.

The goal is to stimulate the building of applications for HarmonyOS. With such a large market, Huawei hopes that many applications will be created to meet the needs of the Chinese market. Ultimately, these applications would be available for eventual global launch if it became a requirement for Huawei. A strategy far from being won in advance in my opinion but that Huawei can not help but consider.

HarmonyOS Is Not (Yet) A Real Competitor For Android

As you read the above, you will probably have realized that HarmonyOS is not a real Android competitor at the moment. Indeed, the difficulties related to the ecosystem of applications are still too important for Huawei to do without the Android license issued by Google. For now, HarmonyOS should simply be seen as a spare wheel to replace Android if Huawei was forced. In addition, he could play Tizen’s role for Samsung if the trade war found a positive outcome for Huawei. That is to say that of a homemade OS used for all products other than smartphones and tablets.

Huawei had no choice but to prepare its weapons to be ready for the consequences that the trade war between the United States and China could have on its activities. With HarmonyOS, Huawei succeeds to create a plan B and even if Android remains its priority for smartphones and tablets in the immediate future, the brand has made it clear “ready to deploy Harmony OS on its smartphones at any time if necessary.”

The message deserves to be clear. Huawei will not let go. The United States and Google are therefore warned.

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