Huawei courts local software developers

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Huawei CTO Akhram Mohamed.
Huawei CTO Akhram Mohamed.

Huawei launched its own version of Google Mobile Services (GMS) at its Developer Day event in Cape Town yesterday.

Dubbed HMS, which stands for Huawei Mobile Services, the move appears to be Huawei’s attempt at a safety net should its contentious relationship with the US government head further south.

At the event, Huawei encouraged local devs to create their own take on popular Google apps, like Gmail and Google Maps, specifically for the HMS platform.

Acknowledging it has been a tough year for Huawei, CTO Akhram Mohamed told ITWeb the move does not mean Huawei is moving away from Android as a foundation operating system. This is despite media reports suggesting this back in August when Huawei officially unveiled its own operating system – Harmony OS.

“Many people think we are creating an alternative to Google but we’re not. That’s why we’re still running on Android open source. All Android native apps can run on our devices, except for the Google-owned apps. That’s where HMS and the App Gallery come in.”

Chatting to ITWeb on the sidelines of the Developer Day, he assured this is not only about creating Huawei’s own ecosystem. “We already have quite a bit of capability. If you look at the Chinese market, Google and Google’s platform has not been used since forever.”

As a brand, it has had to create its own search, e-mail and navigation solutions to serve these Chinese customers. But it isn’t looking to just copy and paste what it has done in China into Western markets because Huawei understands these customers have different needs, he says.

According to Mohamed, the company’s efforts to support local developers form part of a long-term strategy to build relationships and create apps that serve the South African market. And it is building up its own ecosystem in the process.

“Should we find the need to eventually move things over to HarmonyOS, of course we can. But that is not the long-term strategy. Because we do believe that innovation stems from collaboration.”

The HMS push is all about streamlining access to different applications and, importantly, to app updates, which would conventionally have been pushed to a customer’s device from Google. Huawei wants developers to create apps for HMS so that the process is smooth and the user experience isn’t compromised, he noted.

So, what does all of this mean?

In a nutshell: Huawei devices that were sold with preloaded Google apps won’t have any trouble updating applications. When it comes to HMS devices, Mohamed noted these look and function exactly the same as any other phone that runs on full native GMS and Android.

The only differentiating factor is that the Google applications that people have become accustomed to won’t be available on future Huawei devices. For example, this means Huawei can’t preload the Gmail app onto future devices but this doesn’t restrict end-users from creating a Gmail account and then using this account via the Huawei e-mail client, says Mohamed.

“All of this can change if the political climate changes.”

Shining Star programme

At the event, the technology firm also shared a few more details about its recently launched Shining Star developer programme.

As part of this initiative, Huawei is running a Developer Integration Challenge, which encourages developers to register with the HMS platform and build apps for the App Gallery by offering monetary and resource incentives.

A combined R650 000 worth of prizes is on offer in the individuals/SMMEs category and R1 million in prizes will be awarded to corporate/commercial partners. With three phases of the challenge, there are three chances for developers to win.

Dates for the three phases of the challenge are:

Phase one – 21 November to 31 December
Phase two – 1 January to 31 January 2020
Phase three – 1 February to 29 February 2020

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