Huawei’s Harmony OS works across all devices – here’s why that’s a genius move

Huawei unveiled its new OS, Harmony (also known as Hongmeng) on August 9.
Huawei

If things don’t go well for US-China talks in the next 90 days, smartphone maker Huawei is metaphorical toast.

The brand is currently riding out an extended grace period and continues to have access to Google’s Android operating system (OS) – but the possibility looms that the Chinese giant could soon be cut off from it completely, leaving users uncertain if they can access essential Android apps in the future.

But Huawei hasn’t been sitting idle. At its developer conference earlier in August, the brand unveiled its very own Harmony OS – which it called “Plan B” – in case Google pulls the access plug.

Huawei’s senior manager of EMUI product marketing, James Lu, said in a media briefing in Singapore on Friday (Aug 23) that the company will try to keep its phones and tablets running on Android for as long as possible, as the ecosystem is mature and consumers are familiar with it.

However, he emphasised that Harmony “is not an Android alternative or replacement”, but an OS an a totally different level – it can support all smart devices.

Here’s why that’s a genius move:

By supporting all devices, Harmony could be unbelievably popular in the future.

Huawei

Essentially, Huawei is betting that in the future, people will want to own multiple smart devices from different brands that can interact seamlessly.

“This is a future problem we identified that had not been solved by anybody else, but we have the tech for it,” Lu said.

Harmony will automatically pair devices up, sync their data, and combine their hardware capabilities to create one massive “super-device”, he added.

For example, when users make a video call, instead of using the microphone, camera and screen of a phone or laptop, audio could automatically come from a smart speaker, video could show up on a smart TV, and footage could be taken from a drone.

Huawei also claims Harmony’s performance rivals existing OS’ – and it even has AI that can efficiently allocate resources across each device.

If Huawei’s bet on smart device ecosystems pays off, it will be perfectly positioned to capitalise on demand – which seems to be the brand’s insurance strategy against being excluded from any more OS systems.

This means that even if its phones get Android access back permanently, it’s already got a promising OS on the backburner ready to surface when the time is right.

Huawei’s plan? Make it super easy to make Harmony apps

According to Lu, each device type (phone, TV, smart watch) currently runs on its own type of OS. This results in a new OS every time a device category is created.

But on Harmony, developers only need to develop an app once – using common  programming languages like C and Java –  and it will work across all devices.

Harmony is microkernel based, and will allow the code for apps to be rearranged and optimised for different devices.

“(These features) will all be handled by our distributed architecture,” Lu said. “We will shield developers from the complexity… we don’t want app developers to worry.”

Harmony will also be open-source, meaning anyone can access the source code and modify it.

The Chinese tech giant already plans to move its TVs, watches and automotive head units onto Harmony next year, followed by speakers, headsets and VR glasses by 2022.

Harmony’s super-device features will also be introduced to Huawei’s Android-based OS, EMUI 10.

Read also: