HarmonyOS is not Android replacement, says Huawei

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Akhram Mohamed
Akhram Mohamed

Huawei has reiterated its recently-launched operating system (OS) HarmonyOS is not a replacement for Android.

This morning, Huawei SA hosted a media briefing to give details of the new OS, which was unveiled last week. When it was introduced, many reports said it was an alternative to Google’s Android OS because of the timing of the launch.

Huawei stated HarmonyOS would initially be used on devices targeting the Chinese market.

The company’s subsidiary brand Honor unveiled the Honor Vision line of smart TVs, as the first consumer electronics devices to run HarmonyOS.

It added the OS will first be used for smart devices like smartwatches, smart screens, in-vehicle systems and smart speakers.

The Chinese telecommunications firm launched its own OS following its blacklisting by the US government, which resulted in companies, including Alphabet’s Google and British chip designer ARM, limit or cease their relationships with it.

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. 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.

Speaking during the event, Akhram Mohamed, CTO of Huawei Consumer Business Group SA, said HarmonyOS is not a replacement for Android and it was not launched because of the crisis with the US government.

He pointed out that unlike Android, Harmony’s all-scenario, intelligent experience sets a high bar for connectivity, so HarmonyOS was designed with four distinct technical features to deliver on its promise to consumers.

“We are creating something that did not exist,” said Mohamed. “Harmony is the first-ever device OS with distributed architecture, delivering a seamless experience across devices."

He explained that HarmonyOS will address underperformance challenges with a “deterministic latency engine” and high-performance inter-process communication (IPC).

According to Huawei, the deterministic latency engine sets task execution priorities and time limits for scheduling in advance. Resources will gravitate toward tasks with higher priorities, reducing the response latency of apps by 25.7%. The microkernel can make IPC performance up to five times more efficient than existing systems.

The company adds HarmonyOS uses a new microkernel design that features enhanced security and low latency.

This microkernel was designed to simplify kernel functions, implement as many system services as possible in user mode outside the kernel, and add mutual security protection. The microkernel itself provides only the most basic services like thread scheduling and IPC.

Powered by a multi-device IDE, multi-language unified compilation, and a distributed architecture kit, HarmonyOS can automatically adapt to different screen layout controls and interactions, and support both drag-and-drop control and preview-oriented visual programming, says Huawei.

It notes this allows developers to more efficiently build apps that run on multiple devices. With a multi-device IDE, developers can code their apps once and deploy them across multiple devices, creating a tightly integrated ecosystem across all user devices.

Mohamed added Huawei is still committed to the Android OS as shown by its continued development of OS EMUI.

Huawei EMUI, formerly known as Emotion UI, is a custom mobile operating system that is based on Android that Huawei uses on most Huawei and Honor-branded smartphone devices.

At the Huawei Developers Congress held on 9 August, in Dongguan, the company officially released EMUI10.

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