Huawei unveils Harmony operating system

August 12, 2019 09:10
Huawei says its Harmony OS is completely different from Google's Android and Apple's iOS systems. Photo: Reuters

Huawei Technologies unveiled on Friday its proprietary operating system for smartphones and other devices, but said it would for now stick to using Google’s Android for smartphones.

The Chinese telecoms equipment giant said the new software will be gradually rolled out to support devices such as smartwatches, speakers and virtual reality gadgets, Reuters reports.

The new OS is part of Huawei’s attempt to develop its own technologies to reduce its reliance on foreign firms amid an intensifying US-China trade war.

It came after US trade restrictions imposed in May threatened to cut the Chinese firm’s access to US technologies such as Android.

“Harmony OS is completely different from Android and iOS,” said Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business group, referring to operating systems developed by Google and Apple.

“You can develop your apps once, then flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices,” Reuters quoted him as saying at a developers’ conference in Dongguan in southern China, where Huawei has built a lavish new campus modeled on European towns.

US President Donald Trump said on Friday that the United States was not going to do business with Huawei but that could change if there was a trade deal.

Citing national security concerns, the Trump administration has put Huawei on a so-called “entity list”, meaning that US corporations that conduct business with the Chinese firm now require special licenses to do so.

Yu said on Friday that Huawei has no updated knowledge on whether it can continue to use Android.

Huawei is not the first major tech company seeking to develop a robust ecosystem around its own software. Its bigger rival Samsung Electronics has been using its own operating system called Tizen in smartwatches and televisions.

But attempts by the South Korean firm to grow Tizen to challenge Android in smartphones have been thwarted by lack of support from developers.

Analysts believe the huge size of the Chinese market can help Huawei overcome such a problem. Huawei says there are more than 800,000 developers in its product ecosystem.

Yu said that in order to attract developers, Huawei is willing to cut its fee intake from app developers working for Harmony to as low as 10-15 percent. Apple and Google take a 30 percent cut for revenue generated through their app stores.

According to Yu, Harmony will be open source and that it aims to be safer and more efficient than existing ones in the market.

More than 4,000 Huawei developers have been working on Harmony, according to Yu.

In other comments, Yu said it would be difficult for Huawei to meet its previous goal of becoming the world’s biggest smartphone maker by shipments this year, due to the US curbs imposed in May.

Huawei shipped 118 million units in the first half of the year.

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