Huawei has announced plans to have its own Harmony operating system pre-installed on its smartphones from next year.
The Chinese company announced that it would also offer the software to other manufacturers as an alternative to Android.
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But others have tried and failed to challenge the dominance of Google and Apple.
And those numbers reflect the fact that Samsung Tizen, Amazon FireOS, Microsoft Windows Phone, and Canonical Ubuntu have made no progress in cell phones.
Huawei’s move was triggered by the fact that, due to a US trade ban, Google can no longer offer apps and services from Google on its latest devices – although the restriction does not prevent it from offering Android itself.
In China – where consumers do not use the Google Play Store and many Google services are blocked – this restriction has not caused Huawei problems.
In other countries, however, the demand for the latest phones has been weak as Google’s tools are popular.
An expert said the fate of the new operating system may depend on how many other tech companies convinced Huawei to come on board.
“This move is supported by the Chinese government as it fits into the broader Made In China 2025 strategy,” said IDC’s Marta Pinto.
“But it will only take off elsewhere if other Chinese providers like Xiaomi and Oppo take over.
“Even then, it will still be a challenge in regions like Western Europe and Latin America, where so many people and businesses rely on Google’s products.”
Huawei announced its plan at the start of a three-day developer conference near the city of Shenzhen.
The original version of Harmony OS was introduced a year ago when it was developed for use in smartwatches, televisions, and other smart home devices.
The company now intends to release a new version – Harmony OS 2.0 – that will be available for testing on mobile phones from December before officially launching in October 2021.
After October, some of its smartphone models will be offered with Harmony OS.
But it will continue to offer EMUI as an alternative.
Part of Huawei’s challenge is that developers need to code their apps specifically for Harmony if they want the software to run natively for the best performance.
The company has stated that it will be relatively easy to re-encode apps already written for Android.
However, this has proven to be the sticking point for other failed operating system challengers.
The developers either decided that the extra work wasn’t worth it or that it wasn’t a priority, which means that the apps usually lacked the latest features for Android and iOS.
“Huawei has the technical talent, the ambition and a home advantage,” said Ben Wood of consulting firm CCS Insight.
“And if the Chinese government is fully committed to Harmony and makes support for other companies a condition of offering their products and services in the country, this would be an additional catalyst for Huawei to set up a third smartphone platform.
“But when it comes to global aspirations, history shows that it is still very difficult to achieve.”
Huawei faces other immediate concerns.
As of September 15, the company will no longer be able to manufacture Kirin processor chips due to additional trade restrictions in the United States.
Samsung and SK Hynix can no longer sell memory chips.
Huawei has stated that it has built inventory of components to weather the immediate future.
But the fate of its consumer division could be that Washington changes its position after the US presidential election.
- Mobile phones