Huawei launches proprietary HarmonyOS for smartphones

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/16 14:58:49

Launch event of the HarmonyOS 2.0 for smartphones in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: Shen Weiduo/GT

Huawei launched the HarmonyOS 2.0 Beta for its smartphones in Beijing on Wednesday, another step closer to phasing in an alternative to Google's Android operating system, which is also deemed a hedge against the US government crackdown on the Chinese technology company.  

It's the first time for the HarmonyOS 2.0 to run on a smartphone. Huawei unveiled the system at the company's Developer's Conference 2020 in September. 

Wang Chenglu, president of Huawei's Consumer Business Software Department, said during the launch event on Wednesday that the HarmonyOS is "a key to opening the era of the Internet of Things (IoT)," which is expected to bring "disruptive experiences" to consumers.

Wang said that the mobile operating system (OS) can resolve the "pain point" in the nation's internet development, facilitating smoother interaction among more devices - from smartphones and tablets to cars, home appliances, watches and even robots.

Huawei's smart TV screen products and some home appliances that use the HarmonyOS are already available to Chinese consumers, and some Android apps are compatible with the HarmonyOS.

"Smartphones, as well as Huawei tablets, will be equipped with the HarmonyOS starting next year," a Huawei employee told the Global Times at the launch event on Wednesday.

Based on the progress so far, Huawei will upgrade the Harmony system to all Huawei's self-developed electronic devices in 2021, and consumers do not need to purchase new models or hardware to experience the new OS, Yang Haisong, vice president of software for Huawei's consumer business group, told a group of reporters on Wednesday.

Huawei will also release new smartphones that support HarmonyOS next year, Yang said.

The software rollout is now focused on the Chinese market, but analysts believe Huawei will push its proprietary mobile OS into overseas markets in the near future, to recapture its lost smartphone share abroad.

Nevertheless, as an OS that was born in response to a supply ban imposed by the Trump administration, many believe that Harmony is still in its infancy and has some loopholes that need to be fixed, and it remains to be seen when a mature HarmonyOS ecosystem will attract more developers.

HarmonyOS will be an open source OS available for more devices, Huawei stated, adding that it will continue to hold developer days in Shanghai, Guangzhou and other locations to discuss HarmonyOS development technologies and application cases with software developers.

HarmonyOS was revealed in August last year, a few months after the US put Huawei on it Entity List trade blacklist, which cut it off from Google's software and microchips made with any US technology.

"Despite its rapid development, I still see HarmonyOS as a 'spare tire' rather than an operating system that's ready to replace Android, especially as there are signs of a relaxed ban for Huawei during the incoming Biden administration," Ma Jihua, a veteran industry insider and close follower of Huawei, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The arrival of the 5G ultrafast connection era means that not only Huawei but also Apple and Google are striving to upgrade their current OS and adapt to the new era, Ma said.

Aided by China's vast consumer base, a benign testing environment, and rapid deployment of 5G networks, it might be an opportunity for the Chinese tech giant to build HarmonyOS into the world's third-largest mobile ecosystem, after Apple's iOS and Google's Android, Ma said.

Newspaper headline: Huawei launches HarmonyOS for its own smartphones

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