Huawei launches Android “competitor” HarmonyOS
Shenzhen-based tech giant Huawei continues its fight to adapt to its identity as a global pariah. On Wednesday, the company announced the launch of its own proprietary operating system, HarmonyOS.
Rather than a direct competitor to Android and iOS, Huawei is pitching HarmonyOS as a unification platform designed to bring together smartphones, wearables, tablets and smart home devices in a way that existing operating systems can’t.
The company added that the operating system would be launched on approximately 100 of its devices later this year as it continues its attempts to adapt in the face of ongoing US sanctions.
Fighting for Survival
Having lost access to Google mobile services - not to mention the hardware supplier relationships with US companies like Qualcomm that were essential to supporting its smartphone business - Huawei has spent the past few years fighting a seemingly losing battle to become sufficiently self-reliant to weather the storm of US sanctions levelled against it by both the Trump and Biden administrations.
Once the Chinese (and global) market leader, Huawei has seen its star fade over the past year - even being forced to sell off its budget phone brand Honor last November. A lack of access to western components and software - as well as increased domestic competition from rival firms like Oppo and Xiaomi - has seen the company’s position in the global smartphone sales rankings tumble precipitously.
In 2020, TrendForce reports that the world’s leading smartphone sellers, in order of sales, were: Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo. This year, if the trend of decreasing market share continues at the same rate, Huawei’s position is expected to drop from third to seventh, putting it well behind its long-time competitor, Samsung.
If Huawei is to retain what little market share it still has, HarmonyOS is the company’s best chance at that goal. HarmonyOS was unveiled in April of this year, with the bold objective of running on 300mn devices by 2022. Now, the operating system - which Huawei has reportedly been building since 2016 - is officially live.
The operating system isn’t explicitly meant to replace Android or iOS, according to Huawei. Rather, the objective behind the system is to unite Huawei smartphones with a whole host of other devices that also run on HarmonyOS, from tablets and smart watches to electric vehicles.
“There are more smart devices in our lives than ever, but the experience they provide often isn't smart. Siloed systems tend to complicate interconnectivity and operations, which have ultimately led to a fragmented user experience,” said a Huawei spokesperson in a company press release this week. “HarmonyOS is designed to address this problem.”
HarmonyOS reportedly focuses on creating a “common language” for different kinds of devices to connect and collaborate. Huawei is confident that, by destroying the silos between different smart home devices, handsets, and wearables, HarmonyOS can provide users with “a more convenient, smooth, and secure experience.”
"We are surrounded by more and more smart devices these days, and are now in a world where all things are connected," said Richard Yu, Executive Director and CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group. "Every single one of us is a part of this fully connected world, as is every device. We look forward to working with more partners and developers to build a thriving HarmonyOS ecosystem and provide even better experiences, products, and services to our customers the world over."
Currently, there are over 500 developers working on applications for HarmonyOS, and the system is now officially available to users of Huawei’s Mate 40 series, Mate 30 series, P40 series, Mate X2, nova 8 series, and MatePad Pro series.
What’s next for a post-smartphone LG?
South Korean mega-conglomerate LG made its dramatic exit from the smartphone business at the beginning of April 2021. While the company’s weird, wacky, and kind of wonderful smartphone designs never managed to create the kind of commercial success the company was clearly after, LG’s exit from the business raises one important question: What’s next?
As a brand, LG is thoroughly baked into the fabric of Korean life. The company’s home electronics and white goods are popular overseas, but its presence in Korea is on a whole other level of ubiquitous. Every air conditioner in my 20 storey apartment building is made by LG. The corporation owns one South Korea’s three major telecom carriers, and a subsidiary of LG’s Chem division, LG Energy, is having enough success making car batteries for everyone from Tesla and General Motors to Renault that it filed for what promises to be one of the year’s biggest IPOs this week. My toothpaste is made by LG.
People who worry about LG’s exit from the smartphone business clearly don’t understand just how big this company is. All the closure of its mobile device business means is that this titanic organisation is funneling wasted resources into something more profitable.
When it announced the closure of its smartphone business in April, despite ongoing concerns about what to do with its overseas factory assets, LG said that the staff working in its mobile business would be rotated away to other areas. So, where have they gone, and what are they doing now?
Is LG’s Smartphone Division Getting Reimagined as a Software Company?
There’s a good chance that a number of LG’s smartphone division’s employees have wound up in the company’s software development arm. On Thursday, LG unveiled a new mobile app designed to improve pedestrian safety (if you had to dodge delivery drivers watching netflix on their phones while driving at 30 miles per hour down the pavement on your way to shops everyday, you’d agree with me that this is a welcome piece of news in its own right) which is just the latest development in a flurry of app-based activity at the firm.
Last week, LG also announced that FOSSLight (Free and Open Source Software Light) system, its open source software management tool, will be made available free of charge to third party developers. TechRadar also reported that, according to several LG analysts, the company is looking to “bolster its presence in the software community.”
The new pedestrian safety app, called Soft V2X, is deployed in vehicles, and can warn drivers of potential collision risks between them and nearby pedestrians by relying on ultra-fast data exchange between the app, the vehicle, and surrounding devices. Basically, if the app detects it’s getting really close to a pedestrian’s smartphone really, really fast, then it will intervene with an alert. Presumably it can pause Season One of Bridgerton to offer a polite warning to look at the road.