Chinese state media hints at Huawei OS this year

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 05 Aug 2019

Chinese state-owned media outlet Global Times reports Huawei is testing its smartphone armed with the self-developed Hongmeng operating system (OS).

According to the report, the phone could reach the market at the end of this year, targeting low- and medium-end markets and priced at around 2 000 yuan ($288) to attract software developers and users to join the ecosystem.

It adds Huawei is set to release the much-anticipated Hongmeng OS, an alternative to Google’s Android OS, at Huawei’s Developer Conference on 9 August in Dongguan, South China’s Guangdong province.

The report comes after Huawei last week announced revenue increase of 23.2% in the first half of 2019, despite the company getting caught up in the trade war between the world’s biggest economies – US and China.

As the trade war between the US and China rages on, the former, which put Huawei on an export blacklist citing national security issues, has been rallying its allies to cut Huawei out of planned 5G networks, citing “national security threats” due to the company’s close ties to the Chinese government.

The blacklist has seen companies, including Alphabet’s Google and British chip designer ARM, limit or cease their relationships with the Chinese company.

Huawei has denied installing any backdoors in its networking equipment for alleged government spying.

Google is still banned from doing business with Huawei, although some exemptions are allowed but must be applied for.

Google’s parent Alphabet announced it would suspend any business that “requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing”.

It also means Huawei technology would no longer receive software updates, be upgraded to new versions of Android, or have access to the Google Play Store and services as a result. This would lock Huawei devices out of the app store and mean popular services like Google Maps, Music, YouTube and Assistant will not work.

The Google ban would mean future Huawei phones and tablets would no longer have an Android licence.

“If the US government allows us to use Android, we will use Android. But if the US doesn’t allow us, then we will turn to alternatives. As for how ready our OS is, you’ll just have to see with your own eyes,” said Huawei chairman Liang Hua, announcing the company’s results last week.

Hongmeng is an OS under development by Huawei since 2012. To date and despite speculation, the company has not yet publicly designated an official name on the release of the OS.

The OS had originally been announced as a replacement for Android in response to financial sanctions imposed on Huawei by the US in 2019, but by July, Huawei executives had begun to describe Hongmeng as being an “industrial” embedded OS designed for Internet of things hardware, discarding the previous statements for it to be a smartphone mobile operating system.

However, according to Global Times, Huawei executives have now said if Google insists on cutting off supply of its OS to Huawei, the Hongmeng OS may expand to the smartphone business.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report says one of the tests Huawei is running on the Hongmeng OS is its compatibility with Android applications.

The system also has cryptographic functions that protect personal data better and prevent users’ privacy from being breached, it adds.