Why have Huawei created their own operating system ‘Harmony OS’?
At Huawei’s 2019 Developer Conference in August 2019, the company revealed it had created its very own operating system (OS). This decision follows the news from May of this year that the United States had implemented a ban that prevents American companies from dealing with Huawei without a special license. After the announcement of this ban Huawei was then granted a temporary permit to continue operating with its American partners while it prepared other plans. This permit is now due to expire in October 2019. Under these restrictions, apps that have been downloaded on Huawei phones using Android and Google Play, will no longer work for users.
CEO of Huawei’s Business Group, Richard Yu, has said that Harmony OS can now be deployed at any time and if necessary, rolled out in one or two days. However, the company has also made it clear that it wants to continue working with its American partners while that is still an option. With the release of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, due in October 2019, it is unclear if this smartphone will be the first to use Harmony OS, but Huawei have stated that they ideally would still use Android if this option was available to them. The only problem with having to switch their smartphones to Harmony OS straight away is that it would make them difficult to sell outside of China, as most apps will need to have their own version developed for Harmony OS, which will inevitably take time.
If the OS is seen as successful, other major phone brands including Samsung, LG, and Oppo may also adopt it, allowing Huawei to scale the system further and encourage more app developers to create versions that work on the platform. However, developing a successful OS is no easy task, as shown by Samsung’s attempt with Tizen OS in 2012 and Microsoft’s closure of Windows 10 Mobile OS on June 11th, 2019. Huawei’s OS therefore must distinguish itself from the competition and it must do so in a way that encourages developers and users if it hopes to be widely adopted.
Harmony OS and the Internet of Things (IoT)
Makers of Harmony OS say the platform has primarily been developed for IoT devices in order to seamlessly connect them all within an ‘ecosystem’. In practice this means that app creators should be able to build their apps and port them easily to different types of devices, without rebuilding them from scratch. Devices that will be included in this ecosystem range from smart speakers and smart watches to wireless earbuds and even cars.
The first product to use the new OS is the Honor Vision, a smart TV, which has features including a pop-up camera for video calls, mobile screen sharing with the simple tap of a button, as well as being a smarthome hub (can switch off your living room lights with a voice command, for example). It also allows any smartphone to become a remote control for the TV.
Harmony OS will also be opensource, meaning it can be adopted by third-party manufacturers, such as companies who would like to use the operating system to allow their IoT devices to talk to others.
In China, Harmony OS will be called HongMeng OS and will gradually show up in various smart devices by 2020, although it’s unclear when it will be rolled out throughout the rest of the world.
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