announced at its developer conference a new, homegrown operating system for mobile devices called HarmonyOS. The company describes HarmonyOS as a microkernel-based, distributed OS and notes it is designed to offer a cohesive user experience across different devices, including smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, and so forth.
It is also "completely different from Android and iOS," according to Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group.
"We're entering a day and age where people expect a holistic intelligent experience across all devices and scenarios. To support this, we felt it was important to have an operating system with improved cross-platform capabilities. We needed an OS that supports all scenarios, that can be used across a broad range of devices and platforms, and that can meet consumer demand for low latency and strong security," Yu says.
Huawei found itself in a bit of a pickle when Google yanked its Android license
in May, following a government ban on US companies doing business with the Chinese smartphone maker stemming from concerns over spying. The Trump administration later removed the ban
, though more recently set in place a rule restricting government agencies from conducting business with Huawei.
The creation of HarmonyOS makes things intriguing. Huawei said it will continue using Android on its mobile phones, at least "for the time being," but longer term it seems the company would like to make a wholesale switch. Whether it does or not will perhaps depend on how HarmonyOS is received—Huawei s likely to test the waters before making a big splash.
From Huawei's vantage point, HarmonyOS stands out from the competition in four distinct ways. First, it is "seamless," as the first-ever device OS with a distributed architecture, Huawei says. The benefit for developers is that apps built on HarmonyOS can run on different devices without any tinkering.
It's also "smooth," with special features designed to reduce latency of apps by 25.7 percent (a precise measurement claim if ever there was one). Huawei also claims HarmonyOS is "secure" thanks in part to the brand new microkernel design and the "formal verification methods" it uses, and "unified," as it is powered by a multi-device IDE.
Developing a new OS and having the same kind of success with it as Google
has with Android
is no easy task. Assuming HarmonyOS is well built, it will still depend on broad developer support, a fact Huawei is keenly aware of.
"The success of HarmonyOS will depend on a dynamic ecosystem of apps and developers. To encourage broader adoption, Huawei will release HarmonyOS as an open-source platform, worldwide. Huawei will also establish an open-source foundation and an open-source community to support more in-depth collaboration with developers," Huawei says.
HarmonyOS will make its product debut on Huawei's upcoming Smart Screen TV. It's not clear when it will migrate over to smartphones.