Huawei has been caught in the middle of the US-China trade disagreements, with the US restricting the company from accessing its market and incorporating American technology into its products, like Android. While the US administration decided to soften its tone towards the Chinese technology producer and allow it to work with US partners again, the company is still hanging in limbo. That's probably one reason among others why Huawei has been rushing to have a replacement ready. The company has announced its open-source HarmonyOS during its developer conference today. For now, it's mainly meant to run on devices other than smartphones.
Huawei says Harmony's Fuchsia-esque microkernel architecture allows the OS to run on a wide array of form factors like smartwatches, smart home devices, and TVs, while having better security than Linux-based systems. Developers can code in their preferred languages such as C/C++, Java, and Kotlin and translate their apps with Huawei's own ARK compiler. Through a "shared developer ecosystem," cross-platform development should be easily achievable. In contrast to Android, Harmony OS is built with a "Deterministic Latency Engine" that reduces input and animation lag by allocating system resources according to some real-time load analysis.
HarmonyOS has just been announced at #HDC2019! How are we going to build an all-scenario smart ecosystem and experience? How will we overcome the challenges of future OS for connected things? Stayed tuned with us to find out. pic.twitter.com/x7ZbgcEy2d
— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) August 9, 2019
While the company claims it could switch from Android to HarmonyOS within one or two days, it says it has decided to stick with Google's OS for its smartphones because of its existing partners. Still, this assertion could very well be read as a threat should the US decide to restrict trade with Huawei again. Other than that, the company is hard at work to reduce its dependency on Google for its Android devices. It introduced a Play Services alternative called "HMS Core,” providing APIs for apps to hook into without resorting to Google. By distributing its own core services, Huawei lays a foundation that allows it to easily transfer Android apps to its own OS should its access to US software be revoked again.
The first devices to receive HarmonyOS will be TVs later in 2019. Over the next three years, the company plans to introduce the OS to more devices. For now, HarmonyOS will be China-exclusive, although Huawei wants to make it available internationally later.
I, for one, would greet another contender in the smartphone OS game, but it remains to be seen how successful HarmonyOS proves to be. After all, it could turn out to be another Tizen, Samsung's potential Android alternative that mainly lives in its smartwatches and TVs at the moment.