The Lessons from Huawei’s Harmony Operating System | Dailytrust

The Lessons from Huawei’s Harmony Operating System

On   20   May   2019,   Google   announced   it   would   block   Huawei’s future access to Android updates. This means that people  using Huawei   phones   would   not   be   able   to   access   Google   Maps,YouTube,   Chrome   browser,   Google   Docs,   Gmail,   and   Google Search; as well as the gazillions of third-party apps in Google PlayStore.

As no one wants to buy a smartphone without access to these tools, Huawei’s  future in   the  smartphone  business  will  be  quite bleak   without   an   alternative   operating   system   (OS)   to   Android. Newer   smartphones   manufactured   by   Huawei   will   be   affected, while people who  currently  have  Huawei  devices may see them gradually deteriorate because they are not able to perform certain updates.

As reported in this column on 27 May 2019, the ripple effect of the US ban was immediate, and many countries followed the US to either  impose restrictions  on  selling  parts to  Huawei or  outright banning the company from participating in 5G development. More recently, the United Kingdom  and the European Union, seem to have succumbed to the pressure from the US to do away with the Chinese company. In a reaction to the US ban on Huawei’s access to Android, the company   apparently   intensified   efforts   to   develop   its   own   OS, Harmony OS, whose development started from the Android Open Source Platform (AOSP) that everyone can get for free, in a project dubbed   Plan   B.   We   are   reminded   of   course   of   how   extremely difficult it is to compete with Google on matters of OS. Bada – later called Tizen  (Samsung),  BlackBerry OS  (RIM),  MeeGo (Nokia, Intel, Linux Foundation), Palm OS (Palm, Inc.), Symbian (Nokia),and Windows Phone (Microsoft) are a few of the mobile OSs that have attempted to compete with Google’s Android but eventually fizzled out of high-end smartphones.

Google’s Android accounts for 85.4% of smartphones shipped in 2019. (Apple’s iOS accounts for the balance of 14.6%.) As the US is slowly changing the way it does business with China, we can expect to see fewer open platforms and more restrictions on what tools  China  can grab  from   the  US while   keeping   its own “locked   up   within   its   borders.”

Incidentally,   the   restriction   of Huawei’s access to Android and other mission-critical software and tools from the US, has implications that go far beyond Huawei orChina. And here comes the first lesson from the ban: every country has to try to develop its own version of mission-critical software, the least of which is not the operating system.

Anything can happen at anytime   between   any   two   countries,   and   the   country   that   is   not prepared will be subjecting itself to blackmail and incapacitation when   hit   with   a   biting   restriction.   Both   economic   and   political stability   can   easily   suffer   if   a   country   is   not   prepared   to   be independent  in   matters   of   critical   national   “life-or-death”   needs. For sure, software could easily form a component of such needs.

The second lesson from the ban is the replay of the old saying that necessity is indeed the mother of invention. The development of Harmony OS has been motivated by the need to be independent and reasonably self-contained. So how is Huawei doing so far on Harmony?

To be sure it’s not going to be easy, as challenges  loom  for an undertaking of this magnitude – developing an OS is not a walk in the park. I know this firsthand when I tried to develop an alternative to Microsoft Windows in the late 90s, because Windows had too many bugs that were undermining a software project that I had at the time. I call my  OS “REALGUI,”  which  gave my customers  at the  time the performance they wanted, but the platform was too slow compared to MS Windows. Although  I still use it today for some  difficult engineering applications, it can’t compete  with MS Windows on look and speed.

Rumors have it that Huawei will release a beta version of Harmony for   its   phones   in   December   2020 or perhaps early in 2021.Hongmeng OS, is a Chinese language-inspired name for the same OS. Version 1.0 of Harmony OS was reportedly released last year, but for devices other than phones. The plan is that Harmony will support Internet of Things (IoT) seamlessly. Reports suggest that Huawei phones driven by Harmony will still have the look and feel of the company’s Android-based phones, and you would have to look inside to see that your favorite Android apps are missing!Internet users in China do not have access to Google or Google apps, anyway, meaning that they wouldn’t be affected much by the lack of Android apps in Harmony-driven Huawei phones.

In order to enhance the success of Harmony OS, if only for national security and pride reasons, I see the Chinese government throwing its full weight to support Harmony financially. On a global scale – beyondChina, that is, Harmony will probably suffer.

Moreover, starting 12 September 2020, Huawei has reportedly been unable to get more of the Kirin processor chips needed  for its high-end phones due to another US ban. Countries must strive for independence in critical technologies and may have to bankroll private efforts to make this a reality. Such a move could also bring out the best, technically, in a country’s citizens.


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