Chinese smartphone giant readies open source Android replacement as White House toughens stance on trade ban
Huawei has said it plans to continue using Google’s Android operating system for its smartphones for the time being, but could make the switch to its newly introduced HarmonyOS “at any time”.
The Chinese company will give “priority” to Android as long as it remains able to use the software, said Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business group, on Friday at Huawei’s first-ever developer conference in Dongguan, in southern China.
“We will switch to (the) Harmony system when we can’t use Android,” Yu said.
He said it would not be “that difficult” to migrate from Android to Harmony.
For now, Huawei plans to use Harmony in smart watches, televisions, smart speakers, in-car systems and other devices.
Imagery at the conference showed smartphones, laptops and even workstations alongside watches and embedded devices such as lightbulbs.
The first device to use Harmony, which is known as Hongmeng in China, is a television bearing the Honor brand that went on sale in China over the weekend.
Harmony “is completely different from Android and iOS”, Yu said, adding it is to be open-sourced, allowing anyone to build products based on it.
Huawei said it plans to “lay the foundations” for its OS in China first, and then “expand it further to the global ecosystem”.
In May the US placed Huawei on a trade blacklist, citing national security concerns, and has since tied the outcome of the affair to ongoing trade talks.
Shortly after the blacklist move the US granted a 90-day temporary licence, which expires next week, on Monday, 19 August, and is unlikely to be renewed.
In the meantime, the US administration has said it was prepared to begin granting licences to US companies to sell products and services to Huawei.
But on Friday Bloomberg cited sources as saying that the White House is now intending to delay granting those licences, amidst renewed hostility in trade discussions with China.
The uncertainty has caused sales of Huaweu’s smartphones to drop off in international markets, even as they have risen in China.
CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said the introduction of HarmonyOS was “inevitable” given Huawei’s difficulties, and said it could have advantages for non-smartphone devices.
“But replacing (or) displacing Android is a virtually impossible task,” he added.