Can Huawei's Harmony operating system topple Google Android?
The ongoing US-China trade war has done something good for the deep-pocketed Huawei: Create its own ecosystem where it does not need to look at the US tech giants for powering connected devices.
HarmonyOS -- a new microkernel-based, distributed operating system designed to deliver a cohesive user experience across all devices and scenarios -- is one such move which may threaten the dominance of market leader Android from Google in the near future.
HarmonyOS can work across devices, has cross-platform capabilities and support all scenarios - from smartphones to laptops, from smart TVs to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
For the layman, the kernel is the core of an operating system and a microkernel is a toned-down version for better efficiency and low latency.
Today, Android has 76 per cent of the mobile OS market, followed by iOS at 22 per cent.
HarmonyOS is completely different from Android and iOS and supports seamless collaboration across devices.
You can develop your apps once, then flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices, says Huawei.
Traditionally, new operating systems are released alongside new types of devices.
With HarmonyOS, app developers won't have to deal with the underlying technology for distributed apps, allowing them to focus on their own individual service logic.
Apps built on HarmonyOS can run on different devices while delivering a seamless, collaborative experience across all scenarios.
It will also reduces the response latency of apps by 25.7 per cent, claims Huawei.
HarmonyOS uses a brand-new microkernel design that features enhanced security and low latency.
It can automatically adapt to different screen layout controls and interactions, and support both drag-and-drop control and preview-oriented visual programming.
This will allow developers to more efficiently build apps that run on multiple devices.
HarmonyOS 1.0 will be first adopted in Huawei's smart screen products, which are due to launch later this year.
Over the next three years, HarmonyOS will be optimized and gradually adopted across a broader range of smart devices, including wearables, HUAWEI Vision, and head units for cars.
To encourage broader adoption, Huawei will release HarmonyOS as an open-source platform globally.
"We believe HarmonyOS will revitalize the industry and enrich the ecosystem," says Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group.
However, there will be initial problems with its adoption.
According to Patrick Moorhead, ranked top analyst globally and President of Moor Insights & Strategy, with HarmonyOS, the time and investment to port apps will be huge.
"The hardest part will be linkages to peripherals like cameras, fingerprint readers, microphones, AR sensors, which are all API-based to Android APIs, not Harmony," Moorhead tweeted.
It will not be easy to sell HarmonyOS globally, especially when smartphones aren't the initial focus for Huawei.
"The exception is in Huawei's home market of China, where the company has enough clout to attract developers. But this is a global company with global ambitions.
"Internationally, HarmonyOS will face the same problems that felled Windows Phone and Tizen and other aspiring Android and iOS alternatives: Without apps, no one buys the devices. If no one owns the devices, developers don't bother tailoring apps," said a report on Wired.com.
Whether HarmonyOS will be a great platform for connected devices, only the time will tell but the road ahead is not easy especially when Google is also developing a similar operating system.
Google's Fuchsia which is in the works is also an open source, microkernel operating system, designed to work across IoT and connected devices.
Google is slowly beginning to open up about its next-generation operating system which will take Huawei HarmonyOS head on.
The interesting times are just round the corner.
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