Remember HarmonyOS, the operating system Huawei claimed it had written from the ground-up? Yeah it’s just Android 10.
After getting access to HarmonyOS through a grossly invasive sign-up process, firing up the SDK and emulator, and poring over the developer documents, I can’t come to any other conclusion: HarmonyOS is essentially an Android fork. The way that Huawei describes the OS to the press and in developer documents doesn’t seem to have much to do with what the company is actually shipping. The developer documents appear almost purposefully written to confuse the reader; any bit of actual shipping code to which you hold up a magnifying glass looks like Android with no major changes.
The phrase “fake it till you make it” is often given as motivational advice, but I’ve never seen it applied to OS development before. If you’ve ever seen a modern Huawei Android phone, HarmonyOS is largely the same thing… with a few strings changed. So while there’s not much new to see, we can at least dissect HarmonyOS and debunk some of Huawei’s claims about its “brand-new” operating system.
So nothing new under the sun here.
Actually, I disagree just a little. The most interesting info that came out of the article for me is that HarmonyOS is actually two operating systems: a technologically rather dull port of Android 10 yes, but also a potentially interesting IoT operating system that was developed in-house.
I wish the article could have included a more nuanced discussion about the connections and differences between the two, but instead it got stuck on the forking of Android (mixed with plenty of embarrassing anti-China rhetoric) and couldn’t move on.
Ars Technica may not consider HarmonyOS to be viable as a result, but if Google has any sense it will be taking it more seriously. China is a huge market and a technology powerhouse, and using an existing operating system rather than starting from scratch was a smart move by Huawei.
Not surprising, it takes at least a decade to write a new operating system from scratch.
You can write something small and light, or big or bloated. You can use an existing codebase as a proxy while you refactor to a new desigg and drop and replace parts as you go. It would be stupid to write Huawei off behind a cloud of partisan nationalism. Stupid the Chinese are not. Oh, and the US just dropped out of Bloombergs top 10 innovators by country and did the UK ever make the top ten? That last one is shameful but this is what a generation of Reagan-Thatcher nonsense gets you.
Bear in mind Windows NT was a rip of VMS and Unix…