Huawei has officially revealed HarmonyOS, the operating system it was rumored to be developing to replace its reliance on Android. In China, the software will be called Hongmeng. The corporate says the microkernel-based OS can be utilized in everything, right from smartphones to smart speakers, wearables, and in-vehicle systems to build a shared ecosystem across devices. The OS will be released as an open-source platform worldwide to encourage adoption.
Huawei plans to release HarmonyOS on smart screen products later this year, before expanding it to work on other devices, like wearables, over the next three years. The first of these products will be the Honor Smart Screen, which is due to be unveiled on Saturday. Huawei has yet to explicitly say what constitutes a smart screen device, but Reuters previously reported that the OS would appear on a range of Honor smart TVs. The focus for the OS will be products for the Chinese market at first before Huawei expands it to other markets.
In a statement, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, Richard Yu, says that HarmonyOS is “completely different from Android and iOS” because of its ability to scale across different kinds of devices. “You can develop your apps once, then flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices,” the CEO says.
Although the OS will come to more devices over the next three years, in a follow-up press release, Huawei said that “for the time being” it intends to continue using Android on its phones. Whether it can continue to do so is another matter. CNBC reports that in a press conference following the launch, Yu said that the situation was unclear as to whether Huawei can still use Android, and that the company is waiting on an update to find out.
HarmonyOS now has an official name, but it still has some huge hurdles to overcome. Huawei is expecting makers to recompile their apps for this new OS, with the ability to code once and deploy across various devices with numerous screen layouts, interactions, and more. Huawei says creators can compile a range of languages into machine code in a single environment, but it’s uncertain exactly how easy that will be for developers. There are a lot of big promises here, but it’s going to be an even bigger challenge to build an app ecosystem to rival both Android and Android Open Source Project (AOSP).