Huawei to intro Harmony OS next year amid chip crisis

Huawei Technologies plans to introduce its Harmony operating system (OS), viewed as its replacement to Google’s Android mobile operating system, on smartphones next year, as it is facing challenges in outsourcing chips.
Huawei Harmony OSHuawei, which lost some market share in overseas markets due to the technology sourcing ban by the United States, did not reveal the specific timing of the availability of the much-hyped Harmony OS.

The company first unveiled its HarmonyOS last year which it has billed as a multi-device platform across watches, laptops and mobiles, rather than as a like-for-like challenger to Google’s Android mobile OS, Reuters reported.

HarmonyOS can now match 70-80 percent of the performance features of Google Android operating system, a top executive of the company said earlier this week amid tightening US restrictions on the Chinese tech giant.

Huawei’s consumer business group CEO Richard Yu said that if Huawei continues to face restrictions on using Google’s ecosystem, HarmonyOS will gradually gain traction and it will eventually be able to replace Android, according to a report in Global Times.

Huawei became the largest smartphone seller in the world in the second quarter of this year according to a report from Canalys.

United States added Huawei to entity list in May last year, barring Google from providing technical support for new Huawei smartphone models using Android, and from Google Mobile Services (GMS), the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.

Harmony OS

Wang Chenglu, president of Huawei’s consumer business group’s software department gave an update on Thursday to the company’s annual developer conference in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.

“The milestone we’re marking is that we’re supporting Huawei devices from Harmony OS 2.0, but at the same time Harmony OS 2.0 may also be available to other vendors’ devices,” Wang said. “Harmony OS 2.0 will be available to all hardware manufacturers.”

Yu added that the company had opened to developers a beta version for smart TVs, watches and car infotainment systems from Thursday, and plans to make it available for smartphones in December.

Cut off from Google’s Android support led the company to experience a dip in overseas smartphone sales. But Huawei achieved a surge in domestic demand for its smartphones. Apple and Samsung lost smartphone share in China, as a result.

Its alternative to GMS is Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which Yu said was the world’s third largest mobile app ecosystem. Zhang Pingan, president of Huawei’s consumer cloud division, said overseas customers were accepting of HMS and sales of phones with HMS had “soared” since May.

Yu said the company shipped 240 million smartphones last year, which gave it a second-place market ranking in 2019, but added that software shortages had hurt sales in recent months and shipments fell to 105 million units in the first-half.

Chip crisis

The U.S. export control rule aims to block HiSilicon’s access to two crucial tools: chip design software from U.S. firms including Cadence Design Systems and Synopsys, and the manufacturing led by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

With the new restrictions HiSilicon “will be in a situation where they’re not able to manufacture chips at all,” says Stewart Randall, who tracks China’s chip industry at Shanghai-based consultancy Intralink.

In March, Huawei revealed that 8 percent of the 50,000 5G base stations it sold in 2019 came with no U.S. technology, using HiSilicon chipsets instead. HiSilicon develops chips mostly for Huawei.

“The development of HarmonyOS and HMS is fascinating. Nevertheless, this development will need hardware to deliver to the consumers. The biggest challenge is coming from the chips supply disruption,” said Will Wong, an analyst with consultancy IDC.