Why can't Huawei Harmony OS replace Android even though it has reached 80% the level of Android

The U.S. sanctions against Huawei, involving chips and operating system two aspects. In the operating system, Huawei also has its own program, that is, the Harmony OS. At the 2020 Huawei Developer Conference held on September 10, Huawei announced the new version of Harmony 2.0, which is confirmed to be available on wearables, TVs and cars.
 
But the much-anticipated phones with Harmony OS, which didn't make an appearance this time, is not said to be out until 2021 at the earliest. Huawei's Harmony OS has now reached 70-80% the level of Android and is being improved every day, every week, every month, Richard Yu said.

Will Huawei be able to get rid of its dependence on Android?


Triggered Samsung Tizen system

Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and Blackberry have all made operating systems before, but all of them have failed without exception. Only Google's Android and Apple's iOS have succeeded, so it is clear that developing a mobile phone operating system is quite difficult.
 
Take Samsung, the Korean giant, as an example. Samsung proposed a strategy of software independence many years ago, hoping that its own mobile phones could use a customized operating system, so in 2012, it launched a new system in its own name to lead the Tizen. At that time, the manufacturers involved in the development of Intel, Fujitsu, Huawei, NEC, KT (Korea Telecom), NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Panasonic, SK, telecom giants such as Sprint and Vodafone.
 
Samsung has fused its smartphone platform Bada into the Tizen system, and pioneered the Tizen system version 1.0. The Bada operating system was introduced in 2010, not much later than Android. The once-popular Samsung Wave series of smartphones run on the Bada system.
 
Tizen is also an alternative developed by Samsung in order to get rid of its dependence on Google and prevent itself from being stuck in an awkward situation of having no system available after Google abandoned Android. It's an open source system based on the Linux framework, and as originally envisioned, developers were free to use, build and develop applications for it, just like Android system.
 
In fact, however, Tizen phones have always lacked widespread support for user applications, i.e., apps written by third parties or by users themselves. Due to the lack of app support, Samsung phones with Tizen have not been able to penetrate the market, having launched only five models from 2012 to 2019, all of which were entry-level phones for markets such as India.
 
In 2014, Tizen began to disintegrate as Android and IOS gained a commanding lead in the smartphone market, and soon Samsung also announced that the Tizen-powered Z series was just a way to sell low-end phones in India, and that Samsung would still use Android for its future high-end phones.
 
After 2015, Samsung largely abandoned Tizen for its phones and instead used it on smart watches, smart TVs, media players, set-top boxes, and smart furniture (including air conditioning systems, refrigerators, lighting controls, etc.), and tried to get a head start on the IoT direction.

In terms of practical results, Tizen is developing smoothly in areas other than mobile phones, with more than 20 application scenarios, and is second only to Apple's watch OS and higher than Google's wear OS in the smart watch market.

 

BlackBerry QNX system failed to create a mobile ecosystem

When it comes to mobile phone operating systems, there is one more that must be mentioned, the once famous BlackBerry andand its operating system QNX, which is known for its encryption and security.
 
The QNX system is a commercially available Unix-like embedded operating system that has a wide range of applications, including controlling the music and media functions of Porsche sports cars, nuclear power plants and the U.S. Army's unmanned Crusher tank, in addition to BlackBerry's PlayBook.

In the automotive sector in particular, QNX is one of the largest OS suppliers. At present, QNX is currently used in more than 230 models and 150 million vehicles worldwide, representing 75% of the automotive market. And it is used in advanced driver assistance systems, digital instrument panels, connectivity modules, hands-free systems, and infotainment systems.

The QNX system was originally developed by Quantum Software Systems, an embedded systems developer founded in 1980 and it was acquired by Harman Group in 2004 for $138 million in cash. BlackBerry acquired QNX software systems from Harman Group in April 2010.
 
The purpose that BlackBerry acquired QNX was to use it to build an advanced mobile operating platform, but it failed. Unexpectedly, BlackBerry abandoned the smartphone business in 2016, and relied on the QNX system to successfully transform into a software services company, focusing on enterprise software services, QNX embedded software business and in-vehicle systems.
 
When BlackBerry sold its smartphone business to TCL in 2016, the company had an annual loss of more than $400 million. Subsequently the company's software and services business revenue has been increasing, and by the second quarter of 2020, it has achieved a net profit of $44 million, the company successfully transformed.
 
As we can see, the manufacturers like Samsung, Blackberry, or the former Nokia and Motorola, all have been in the market like never before with their looks, hardware configurations, processors, cameras, and other features. But they failed to catch the mobile Internet era to create its own global mobile phone ecosystem. 

 

Huawei Harmony OS still has a long way to go

In recent years, Huawei has been actively building its own ecosystem, and in August 2019, it launched the initial generation of Harmony OS. After being blacklisted by the United States in 2019, Huawei sped the development of its own Harmony OS.

According to Richard Yu, head of Huawei Terminal, the company has invested more than a hundred million dollars in the Harmony system, which has now reached 70-80% the level of Android, and is still improving the experience of the system. Besides, Huawei has also applied for several trademarks related to Harmony OS, including Huawei Harmony OS, Harmony OS Connected, Harmony OS Linked and so on.

As the U.S. continues to escalate its blocking order, the development of Harmony OS has become more urgent, as Huawei users may not be able to update the Google Play Store, Google Maps and other products offered by Google Mobile Services in the future, which will seriously affect customers' willingness to purchase new Huawei mobile phones.
 
However, the development of Harmony OS is quite difficult.
 
When Harmony OS 1.0 was launched, Huawei admitted that its operating system was far from being able to replace Google Android apps, and that it might take years to develop relevant alternative products, while many Android users in Europe and Southeast Asia had already gotten used to the Google apps on their Android phones. There are too few available apps based on the Harmony OS, so the user experience and acceptance may be seriously affected.
 
In August 2019, Huawei fully opened up 12 areas based on Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) such as location, mapping, analytics, and advertising to developers. According to the latest data, Huawei HMS has reached 1.6 million registered developers and more than 80,000 apps integrated with HMS Core. However, the number of HMS developers currently only account for about 10% of global developers, and the number 80,000 is also far behind Google's 2.8 million, and is far from being able to replace Android.
 
Zhou Hongyi, chairman of 360 Group, has pointed out that Google's Android system has become the world's number one mobile operating system, achieving a win-win situation for both the ecosystem and the market channel, mainly by virtue of the two characteristics of open source and free. It was generally accepted by the majority of mobile phone manufacturers and developers, all the way forward by leaps and bounds. He suggested that Huawei should follow the open source model of Android and quickly establish a perfect ecosystem for Harmony OS in a short time. 

But in the opinion of many analysts, Huawei is unlikely to adopt Zhou's advice and implement the open source model. Considering Huawei's self-developed Hisilicon Kirin for their own use only, Huawei regards it as one of its core competencies and strategic products, so the Harmony OS will most likely play the same role, and will not be open to the public.
 
In short, due to the difficulty of developing the Harmony OS, it will not be able to be launched for a while, and it is even more difficult to give an answer as to when it will replace the Android system. Under the dual pressure of chip and operating system, it is afraid that Huawei's mobile phone business will go through a long winter.

This is an article from WeChat official accounts BT caijing (ID: btcjv1), written by Ziqi, translated by Chris Yuan.