SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies plans to introduce its HarmonyOS operating system, viewed as its replacement to Google’s Android mobile operating system, on smartphones next year, as it seeks to overcome curbs placed on it by the US.
The company first unveiled its proprietary HarmonyOS last year which it has billed as a multi-device platform across watches, laptops and mobiles, rather than as a like-for-like challenger to Google’s Android mobile OS.
Analysts say it is the closest solution to a replacement that Huawei has, after its addition to the US entity list in May last year, which barred Google from providing technical support for new Huawei phone models using Android, and from Google Mobile Services (GMS), the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.
Huawei’s consumer business group CEO Richard Yu and Wang Chenglu, president of Huawei’s consumer business group’s software department gave an update on Thursday to the company’s annual developer conference in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.
“The milestone we’re marking is that we’re supporting Huawei devices from HarmonyOS 2.0, but at the same time HarmonyOS 2.0 may also be available to other vendors’ devices,” Wang said. “HarmonyOS 2.0 will be available to all hardware manufacturers.”
Yu added that the company had also opened to developers a beta version for smart TVs, watches and car infotainment systems from Thursday, and plans to make it available for smartphones in December.
Being cut off from Google’s Android support led the company to experience a slump in overseas smartphone sales, although that was later offset by a surge in domestic demand.
Its alternative to GMS is Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which Yu said was now the world’s third-largest mobile app ecosystem. Zhang Pingan, president of Huawei’s consumer cloud division, said overseas customers were accepting of HMS and sales of phones with HMS had “soared” since May.
Yu said the company shipped 240 million smartphones last year, which gave it a second-place market ranking in 2019, but added that software shortages had hurt sales in recent months and shipments fell to 105 million units in the first half.
In August, the US expanded earlier restrictions aimed at preventing Huawei from obtaining semiconductors without a special license. Analysts have said that Huawei’s smartphone business would disappear entirely if it could not source chipsets.
“The development of HarmonyOS and HMS is fascinating. Nevertheless, this development will need hardware to deliver to the consumers. Thus, the biggest challenge is still coming from the chips supply disruption,” said Will Wong, an analyst with consultancy IDC.
(Reporting by David Kirton in Shenzhen; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Elaine Hardcastle)