Shortly after the US government got into a fight with Chinese electronics giant Huawei, rumors started floating that the company would stop using Google’s Android software on its phones and switch to its own operating system.

That’s not likely to happen anytime soon… but Huawei has been developing its own operating system for the past few years. And now the company is ready to unveil it to the world.

At the Huawei Developer Conference this week, Huawei officially unveiled Harmony OS, an open source operating system that could be used on a wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets, PCs, wearables, TVs, and cars, just to name a few.

For now, the company’s first device to ship with Harmony OS will be the Honor Vision smart TV. Huawei has no plans to release a phone with the operating system… but if Huawei is cut off from using Android for technical, business, or political reasons, it looks like the company could switch to using Harmony OS without much difficulty.

It makes sense for the company not to play up that idea now. Huawei says Harmony OS offers a number of advantages over Android and other operating systems thanks to a modern, streamlined, and secure codebase. But that’s beside the point — Android is the most popular operating system in the world right now, and it’d be tough to sell phones that can’t run Android apps or don’t work the way users expect them to.

Remember when Samsung tried selling phones powered by its own Tizen-based operating system? That hasn’t gone over so well, with the company only offering a handful of models in a few markets… and Samsung is the world’s top phone maker at this point. If Samsung doesn’t have the clout to convince people to buy phones with a non-Android operating system, how will Huawei?

But Samsung continues to use Tizen for its smart TVs, smartwatches, and other IoT devices… a strategy that looks a lot like Huawei’s plans for Harmony OS.

And if either company were ever put in a position where Android wasn’t an option anymore, then that’s when it might make sense to switch their phones to an operating system designed in-house as a Hail Mary pass before deciding whether to just give up on the smartphone space altogether.

All of which is to say that Harmony OS isn’t really an Android alternative right now… but only because Huawei doesn’t plan to stop using Android.

But it is a powerful, versatile operating system that could be an Android alternative one day if it needs to be.

The operating system is based on a microkernel (much like Google’s Fuschia), which the company says offers multiple benefits including tighter security and the ability to run across a range of devices — Huawei says its tools will allow developers to create a single app that can be deployed across phones, TVs, automotive systems, or other devices.

Huawei is also promising lower latency, faster inter-process communication and other advantages that the company says help set Harmony OS apart from Android, Fuchsia, and other IoT operating systems including BlackBerry’s QNX.

The first version of Harmony OS still includes a Linux kernel and Huawei’s LiteOS kernel, but Huawei says when it releases Harmony OS 2.0 next year, it will only feature the microkernel.

via Engadget, xda-developers, and Android Police

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  1. Im gonna be contrarian becuz China is a big market & big market have their own gravity. Yes abroad in West India or Japan its not gonna fly due to politics. Also for microkernel Fuchsia’s Zircon was based on Haiku which isnt a true microkernel its a hybrid from wiki ” hybrid kernel is an operating system kernel architecture that attempts to combine aspects and benefits of microkernel and monolithic kernel architectures”. I’d expect the same of Harmony OS “microkernel” no surprise if its copied

  2. Sorry, but it will be a cold day in Hell before I buy something from Huawei. More and more it’s not the company or companies, it’s the Chinese government itself. The company is closely associated with the government, and that makes them untrustworthy. I know what many people say about all of this, the trade debates, but many of the things the government are doing are very bad. They are in the process of setting up a concentration camp state for their Muslims. How do you trust a country like that. I understand they are deeply integrated into what we buy, but when the choice is solely on me, such as the case of all things Huawei brand, my money will never go to them.

    1. You should stop reading just the western anti-china media, you sound completely brainwashed. Here is some random info about China: Did you know that since 1980s China is trying to stop the spread of the Gobi Desert by planting trees around it ? They planted over 60 billion trees so far. You can learn more by searching for “Great Green Wall of China”.

    2. Honestly I would rather have the Chinese government spy on me over having the US government spy on me. My issue is using compromised hardware in infrastructure.

  3. Honestly not impressed. This whole fiasco was China-Huawei trying to show off to USA-Google, look we are not that much inferior/weaker than you and if you don’t cooperate with us and trade-war we will retaliate heavily. I guess in some ways it worked.

    But thinking about how far ahead Windows10, iOSX, Android is no joke. Let alone the alternative/open-source choices we have in webOS-KaiOS, Mer-Sailfish, Ubuntu-SUSE, Tizen, and QNX.

    There’s no way Huawei can catch up. Their best chance would be to spend 12 months designing their own User Experience and analysing the ARM-architecture, the Linux Kernel, and the various choices listed above. Then pick out the best pieces from each and everyone of them, throw hours and thousands of developers at it. Then result it in as the Most Advanced Mobile Linux OS.

    Stabilise the entire build and make it more efficient. Have it run on various hardware (from the weakest to the most powerful). Debug the whole project so becomes mature/usable. Then fork the build into the barebones system to release as per GPL-requirements, and keep the mainline system as proprietary. Now you’re at version 1.0

    After a full year, and after it has been ported to commercial products ranging from Watch, to Phone, to Tablet, to Laptop/Desktop, to TV/Console, and its been updated again for stability, now you’re at version 2.0

    And if the Operating System has a very powerful web browser, it can run Web-Apps, to bridge the gap for certain conditions. However, this is only as an alternative route. Main route of programs will be executed by running inside the OS itself: so now you’ve got a powerful and well-fleshed out App system and SDK. Take people’s Apps from various sources and convert them into your own ecosystem for free, and great incentive for the App Market. This leading to the adoption of the most popular +100 Games plus the most popular unique +100 Apps. Call this version 3.0 and you can finally say you’ve caught up to the likes of Windows10, iOSX, and Android.

  4. A security review the British government conducted of Huawei 5G infrastructure found sloppy coding practices and poor security ingrained at Huawei’s own software development center. It also included open source software that was already obsolete.

    Of course the 5G they are offering is so cheap many will overlook the above, but the sloppy nature of Huawei means all sorts of openings could be exploited.

    The notion that Harmony OS is more secure than Android or other OS is laughable.

    Also an OS will not save Huawei, the critical components it needs to make products will eventually run out and the company will face a death spiral unless China is willing to compromise with USA which they are not so far.

  5. “offers multiple benefits including tighter security” Brad, I know you were just reading their press release, but did you say that with a straight face? The Chinese government can (and probably did) insist on their own back door. This is something our own government is pushing for right now. How they figure a back door can be created and only utilized by authorized personnel is beyond me.

    1. a) I didn’t want to parse the technicalities, but this has to do with kernel isolation creating fewer areas for malware to attack and b) While it’ll be incumbent upon security researchers to dig in, the fact that Huawei says the software will be open source theoretically mean that if there are any back doors, they’ll be discoverable.

    2. Every time I hear someone making claims of the chinese government doing such a thing, I hear demands for proof of that and then I’ve yet to see proof of it.
      But I highly doubt at this stage that the things you do on a device running this can be guaranteed to be absolutely private, even if the OS itself is open source, and no backdoors are found in it. There are many privacy invading things that can be done on a technically open source OS, just look at android. The version bundled with all real devices can have all kinds of proprietary blobs installed, like in drivers or default applications, and deny the user permission to get rid of them. Those might, or might not be backdoors, you can’t tell, but they’re technically not part of the OS.