Harmony OS 'will fail' if it is an Android alternative, says Huawei exec

Harmony OS 'will fail' if it is an Android alternative, says Huawei exec

Huawei is working on developing alternatives to Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps and YouTube should these services be blocked from the company’s future mobile devices, says its senior manager for EMUI product marketing James Lu.

Huawei's James Lu
Mr James Lu, senior manager for EMUI product marketing at Huawei Technologies, sharing about the company's self-developed Harmony OS that's aimed at being the platform for connected devices.

SINGAPORE: Chinese tech giant Huawei’s recently unveiled Harmony operating system (OS) is not meant to replace Google’s Android, and it will fail if it is designed for that purpose, a company executive said on Friday (Aug 23). 

Mr James Lu, senior manager for EMUI product marketing at Huawei Technologies, also told CNA that a Harmony OS-powered smartphone or tablet is unlikely to hit the market any time soon.

READ: Analysis: Huawei badly needs the Chinese government, tech rivals to back its OS plans

During a press briefing in Singapore on the Harmony OS, Mr Lu said that the Android ecosystem is already mature and heavily used by both consumers and developers alike. It will therefore be an uphill battle for new platforms like Huawei’s to come in and compete in the same space.

“(Harmony OS) is not an Android alternative. If it is, it will fail,” he said.

He explained that rather than trying to come up with inventions to problems others have solved, Harmony OS is aiming to crack another challenge: How to make sure the many devices users own are able to speak to one another. 

As more devices come online - from things like TVs and watches to drones and cars - the challenge for developers is to create different apps that can run on multiple devices, and this is not sustainable, the executive said.

Consumers, too, may get a less-than-desirable user experience if an app they use for playing music is not able to have user interfaces that adapt to the different platforms. For example, a car’s display unit should not have a song’s lyrics displayed on the screen since drivers will not be able to concentrate, but this same feature would be expected for TVs, Mr Lu said.

The Chinese company had lifted the lid on home-brewed OS, which was widely touted by many as an alternative to Android, at its developer conference in Shenzhen earlier this month.

READ: Huawei unveils Harmony OS, but won't ditch Android for smartphones

The development of Huawei’s own OS had been much speculated after Google stopped activities with the Chinese company involving direct transfer of hardware, software and technical services that are not publicly available. This means popular Google apps like Gmail, Maps and YouTube will not be available to new mobile devices made by the Chinese company when the ban is formally enforced.

READ: Google blocks Huawei’s access to Android updates - What you need to know

The US Commerce Department had extended an original 90-day moratorium for US companies to sell or buy equipment and services to Huawei by another three months earlier this week.

NO HARMONY OS-POWERED PHONES SOON

Mr Lu pointed out that when Harmony OS was unveiled, Huawei’s product roadmap included devices like TVs, smart watches, in-vehicle display units and some of its PCs. Smartphones and tablets were noticeable omissions and this was by design, he said.

“As we said, the Android ecosystem has been very mature and so we will try to use our EMUI (Huawei’s customisation of Android OS) for as long as we can,” he said during the interview. 

“In the meantime, we will have Harmony OS ready for smartphones and tablets in case we’re not able to use Android anymore.”

He added that it is already working on alternatives to popular Google services that will be closed off to new Huawei mobile devices in the future, if the trade ban is upheld. He declined, however, to give more details.

Asked if Harmony OS will be used for Huawei’s next flagship device, Mr Lu said the next smartphone will be unveiled “very soon” and more details will be revealed then.

As for when consumers in Singapore will get to see Harmony OS in action, Mr Lu said the first device to run the OS will be its TV, which is already available in China. 

However, he said there are no plans to bring the device to Singapore “in the near future” even though there are plans to do so for other markets.

The first Harmony OS-powered device to enter Singapore would likely be smart watches, he added, as there are plans to make them available internationally. 

Source: CNA/kk(gs)

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