Can Huawei's OS Take on Android?

The Chinese technology giant wants to create its own operating system and lessen its dependency on US partners

14.06.2019 | by Reve Fisher
Photo by PC Mag
Photo by PC Mag

Chinese telecommunications corporation Huawei has revealed plans to create its own operating system to rival Google’s Android.

In 2012, Huawei had a five percent share of the global smartphone market. It has since grown to become the world’s second largest smartphone supplier, after Samsung.

However, given the US government’s recent trade ban on Huawei and 142 other Chinese brands, the need to develop its own technology has become even more vital for Huawei.

Seven years ago, talks of creating an alternative to Google’s Android operating system first emerged amongst a group of Huawei’s top executives.

According to the South China Morning Post, founder Ren Zhengfei held a closed-door meeting in a villa in Shenzhen to discuss the rising power of Android throughout the telecommunications world, as well as the risk of depending on it as a company in the case that a US ban was enacted in the future.

In March 2019, Richard Yu Chengdong, Huawei’s chief of mobile, told German media outlet Die Welt that Huawei was developing its own operating system for phones and computers in case Android was no longer an option.

“We have prepared our own operating system, if it turns out we can no longer use these systems [Android], we will be ready and have our plan B,” he said in the interview, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

Similarly, a Huawei spokesperson tried to downplay the situation, reporting that Android and Windows are the company’s first choice and the alternative systems are “only for use in extenuating circumstances.”

“We fully support our partners’ operating systems – we love using them and our customers love using them,” as explained via email.

The plans to create its own OS have been carefully controlled by the corporation. A specialised zone, protected by security guards, has been created to house the Huawei OS team. Only employees on the OS team can access the zone with the use of registered staff cards. Personal mobile phones are not allowed in the area.

However, the biggest obstacle to a true Android alternative is, interestingly enough, compatibility with Android apps. A compatibility layer with Android means that app developers would not need to develop extra code for Huawei’s OS and that the company’s phones could download and run Android apps seamlessly.

Microsoft and Windows have both tried and failed to create a compatibility layer in the past.

With only 90 days until resources are completely blocked by the US government, Huawei felt forced to reveal its plans for an alternative operating system.

Will the Chinese technology giant succeed? Only time will tell.

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