Huawei unveils HarmonyOS

In the city of Dongguan, China, Huawei finally took the wraps off its long-rumored, first-party operating system. The OS, called Harmony OS, has been in development for several years, but it’s recently taken on a role as a key player in Huawei’s contingency plan since the U.S. enacted a trade ban on the Chinese technology company. At the Huawei Developer Conference, Huawei finally shared the first details about its in-house OS, but the company wasn’t ready to show off Harmony on smartphones just yet. Tomorrow, the company will show off Harmony OS on the Honor Vision TV. For now, Android remains the go-to mobile OS for Huawei and Honor smartphones and tablets.

The operating system runs on a custom microkernel architecture that’s been developed in-house, which makes sense considering Huawei has been holding talks about microkernels at FOSDEM for a few years now (2018, 2019). They claim it’s faster than the competition, more secure, and more flexible – so much so that they say they can switch over from Android in a matter of days.

Other details about HarmonyOS include no root access, because Huawei considers it a security risk. Huawei will be supplying an IDE for the operating system, capable of building applications for various device types. Huawei also intends to release HarmonyOS as open source.

There’s a lot of skepticism about Huawei’s ability to build an operating system out there, but I do not share that at all. Huawei is one of the largest, most successful technology companies in the world, for both enterprise networking technology as well as consumer technology, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they are more than capable of developing a good, solid operating system.

That being said, the real issue is of course that between iOS and Android, there isn’t really much room left for a viable third option. HarmonyOS could certainly work in China – especially since it boasts Android compatibility and Chinese Android phones are Google-free anyway – but in the rest of the world people expect their smartphones to be either iOS or Google Android. I highly doubt any non-Android smartphone, with or without Android application compatibility, has any serious chance in the market.

Which is obviously sad, but that’s the way it is.


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