Company / Analytics

Analytics, 02 June 2021

Huawei’s launches new HarmonyOS Operating system

Huawei has launched its own HarmonyOS mobile operating system on its handsets, as it adapts to having lost access to Google mobile services two years ago after the U.S. blacklisted its access to American technologies. About 100 Huawei smartphone models will use its proprietary HarmonyOS system.

Analysts say HarmonyOS is unlikely to appeal to consumers outside China, but Huawei thinks otherwise.

Where it started

In May 2019, former U.S. President Donald Trump blacklisted Huawei from accessing US technologies on national security grounds and President Joe Biden has not changed that decision.

The Trump administration even insisted on the arrest of a top Huawei executive in a move to contain China’s rise as a global power. Huawei has repeatedly denied it is a security risk.

The ban put Huawei’s handset business under immense pressure. Once the world’s biggest smartphone maker, Huawei is now ranked sixth, with a 4% market share in the first quarter.

The HarmonyOS

China’s Huawei Technologies launched its Harmony operating system for smartphones on Wednesday, looking to recover from U.S. sanctions that have hobbled its handset business. Harmony has been around for a couple of years now, but version 2 brings a tectonic shift – it will power phones, tablets, and smartwatches, not just smart TVs.

Huawei will start rolling out HarmonyOS on selected smartphone models, offering users the chance to switch from the current operating system based on Google’s Android platform.

The use of HarmonyOS means the company will no longer be wholly reliant on Android. U.S. sanctions banned Alphabet Inc’s Google from providing technical support to new Huawei phone models and access to Google Mobile Services, the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.

Rather than being a like-for-like replacement, Huawei is billing HarmonyOS as an ‘Internet-of-Things’ platform, aimed at operating on and connecting other devices such as laptops, smartwatches, cars, and appliances.

Is HarmonyOS important to Huawei?

The new operating system means the Chinese telecom will no longer need to rely on the Android operating system after US sanctions banned Huawei from using American tech products or services. Huawei designed Harmony to serve as its alternative to the Google services on which it previously relied.

Huawei is aiming to have HarmonyOS on 200 million smartphones and 100 million third-party smart devices by the end of the year, said Wang Chenglu, president of Huawei Consumer Business Group’s software department, who has led Huawei’s efforts to develop HarmonyOS since 2016.

Huawei is looking beyond smartphones with HarmonyOS. The smartphone market had plateaued and smartphones remained the dominant device in people’s lives largely because most developers had few other platforms to develop for, Wang Chenglu said.

“The problem with existing operating systems is that devices can’t be connected easily,” with users often having to download separate apps to get things to connect, Wang said. “But Harmony can enable devices to be connected to form a super device. It will work as one file system, literally one device,” Wang said.

Huawei would welcome other smartphone makers adopting HarmonyOS, though it sees big opportunities in working with makers of non-smartphone devices.

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