Harmony OS set to debut as Android drops Huawei as partner

Huawei is ready to launch its Harmony OS as a commercial handset operating platform.

The company has scheduled an event on June 2 to unveil the latest version of the OS, which was introduced just two years ago to support IoT endpoints and smart devices.

But the drastically shortened development cycle, driven by the US sanctions program, creates even more headwind for the Chinese firm in its attempt to create a viable third mobile operating system – a challenge that has so far eluded Nokia, Firefox, Samsung and Microsoft.

Moving on: After the split with Android, Huawei has a new beau for its commercial handsets, the Harmony OS.
Moving on: After the split with Android, Huawei has a new beau for its commercial handsets, the Harmony OS.

To date Harmony has not seemed to have won any support from China's domestic handset-makers.

Miss Congeniality

Big brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo and even Honor – a Huawei brand until six months ago – have said they have no plans to deploy the new OS, according to Sina Tech.

Wang Chenglu, head of software in Huawei's consumer group, said the company aimed to have 300 million devices running Harmony OS by year-end, China Daily reported Tuesday.

This would include 200 million Huawei smartphones, another 30 million Huawei-branded tablets, smartwatches and other devices, and the rest from third-party products.

The planned Harmony release follows the launch last week of Android 12, the first to officially exclude Huawei as a handset partner. From now on Huawei phones can only carry older versions of Android or Harmony.

Launched in August 2019, more than a year ahead of schedule, Harmony OS was initially used for smart devices.

Version 2.0, unveiled last September, supported smart TVs and cars with memory of up to 128MB. The new version is expected to be capable of supporting devices with up to 4GB in memory.

Choose your audience

While smartphone brands have not embraced Harmony, that's not the case for appliance-makers.

Midea has been embedding the OS in its air conditioners, washing machines and fridges since last year and expects to have nearly 200 products running the OS by year-end, Beijing News reported.

Zhao Xiaogang, a teacher in the Department of Software Engineering, School of Computer Science, Wuhan University, said that unlike Android, Harmony covers devices with memory footprint ranging from kilobyte to gigabyte, and with interconnection taking place at the system level.

Android only supports smart terminals above the gigabyte level and achieves interoperability through the application layer.

For Huawei, Harmony is part of its repositioning toward the cloud and software as its old hardware business, devices in particular, declines under the weight of US export bans. Total sales shrank 17% and handset shipments plunged 50% in the first quarter.

Want to know more about the Internet of Things? Check out our dedicated IoT content channel here on Light Reading.

In a speech during a meeting with scientists last month, Ren Zhengfei, Huawei CEO and founder, said the company was now heavily focused on software.

"Because in the software domain, the US will have very little control over our future development, and we have much autonomy," he told the visitors.

"Hardware development hinges on advanced platforms. So even if we have advanced design, we won't be able to develop hardware without advanced platforms."

"In contrast, we develop software based on new ideas and algorithms and continuously innovate under a macro architecture. So we can develop virtually any software we want."

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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