Huawei launches HarmonyOS

Huawei, the third-largest smartphone maker, introduced their new smart device operating system HarmonyOS, on August 9 at its Developer Conference in Dongguan, China.

Huawei explained that the OS started life in 2017, but work was accelerated in early 2019. Version 2.0 is scheduled for 2020 and version 3.0 for 2021. Each update expands the types of devices the OS can operate on.

Huawei Developer Conference 2019 in Dongguan, China. (Photo: Huawei)

Speculation is that the brand pushed forward the development and release of the OS to offset potential fallout from its current battle with the United States. On May 15, Huawei, under an executive order by US President Donald Trump was added to the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Entity list.

This effectively banned US companies from doing business with the Chinese technology giant. One of those companies was Google, supplier of the Android OS system used on Huawei’s phones. While Android is essentially open-source, elements such as the Google Play store, the application for purchasing apps, would become off-limits to Huawei.

Harmony OS won’t replace Android, for now, only making its August debut on Huawei’s Honor Vision Smart TV, as Huawei said it wishes to continue the long term relationships it has with its US partners. It does claim, however, that it can move to the HarmonyOS at any time as the migration would take up to two days.

The OS will remain in the Chinese market until Huawei feels it has enough of a foundation for it to go global, but if the trade ban isn’t lifted by the time Huawei begins to release its new smart devices like the upcoming Mate 30 series, they will have no other option but to move to HarmonyOS.

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group presenting at the 2019 Huawei Developer Conference.

The real issue may lay in the large Android ecosystem. As the most adopted mobile operating system, it would be a significant task to bring over Android apps to the new platform based solely on their sheer volume, even though Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, was quoted as saying that it would be just as easy to transfer Android apps over to HarmonyOS. Huawei also unveiled Huawei Mobile Services which includes AppGallery, the HarmonyOS version of the Google Play Store.

“We’re entering a day and age where people expect a holistic intelligent experience across all devices and scenarios.”

— Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group

HarmonyOS isn’t just a replacement for Android, Yu says it represents a new generation of operating systems. In Huawei’s presentation, HarmonyOS uses a much simpler structure making it faster, and more secure than Android.

Our goal is to bring people a truly engaging and diverse experience.

— Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, outlined the company’s rationale in developing this new OS. “We’re entering a day and age where people expect a holistic intelligent experience across all devices and scenarios. To support this, we felt it was important to have an operating system with improved cross-platform capabilities. We needed an OS that supports all scenarios, that can be used across a broad range of devices and platforms, and that can meet consumer demand for low latency and strong security.”

Comparison testing by Huawei resulted in performance up to five times faster than Google’s still in development Fuchsia OS.

The speed enhancements come from a Deterministic Latency Engine and high-performance Inter Process Communication (IPC) that Huawei says provides precise resource scheduling with real-time load analysis and forecasting. Comparison testing by Huawei resulted in performance up to five times faster than Google’s still in development Fuchsia OS. There is less code in Harmony making it easier to spot and address security attacks.

“We believe HarmonyOS will revitalize the industry and enrich the ecosystem.”

— Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group

“Our goal is to bring people a truly engaging and diverse experience. We want to invite developers from around the world to join us as we build out this new ecosystem. Together, we will deliver an intelligent experience for consumers in all scenarios,” Yu said.

The OS is decoupled from the hardware, allowing a wider range of programming languages to be used and devices for it to be used on. It can automatically scale and adapt to varied screen layouts, controls, and interactions, Huawei said. One significant HarmonyOS feature is Artificial Intelligence. AI can be implemented in various scenarios on user devices. Like Android, the base elements of HarmonyOS will remain open-source.