Huawei says its HarmonyOS operating system can rival Google, Apple

A guest holds his phone showing a photo taken at the Huawei press conference revealing his new HarmonyOS operating system in Dongguan, Guangdong Province on August 9, 2019.

Fred Dufour | AFP | Getty Images

A senior Huawei executive said the Chinese company’s mobile operating system was able to compete with Google and Apple – but analysts told CNBC it could be difficult to achieve, especially in markets outside of China where the American technology giants are strongly established.

“Huawei is able to provide an ecosystem comparable to that of Google and Apple,” Huawei vice president of consumer cloud services Eric Tan said on Tuesday. “We are confident that we are one of the best ecosystem developers in the world.”

He was talking about the company’s own operating system, called HarmonyOS, which was launched in August.

It happens that the Chinese tech giant is trying to chart a course without American technology.

Huawei smartphones have relied on Google’s Android operating system for several years. But in 2019, the Chinese company was put on an American blacklist that restricted its access to American technology and meant that it could no longer use licensed Android software on its handsets.

In response, Huawei launched its own operating system the same year.

Huawei executives spoke on HarmonyOS on Tuesday, playing on its ability to be an operating system that can run on a number of devices rather than just smartphones, which may appeal to developers looking to create applications that run on different hardware.

Management also talked about Huawei mobile services (HMS), a collection of various Huawei apps, from cards to payments on its app store.

Huawei’s claim to be able to provide an ecosystem “on the same level” as that of Google and Apple is great, given that the company has only launched its operating system in less than a year .

But Tan supported his comments by revealing that at the end of March, Huawei had 1.4 million developers on board, up 115% from the end of the first quarter of 2019.

In China, where Huawei is the largest smartphone maker in terms of market share, not having access to Google’s Android isn’t a big deal. This is because Google services, such as search, are blocked in the country and users can’t really use them anyway. It also means that Huawei’s HarmonyOS has a chance to succeed in the domestic market.

So overall, without the marquee developers on board, it’s going to be difficult to sell.

Neil Shah

Counterpoint search

However, in international markets where apps are built on Google services – integrating cards or payments, for example – Huawei may find its HarmonyOS difficult to sell.

“It will not be easy for Huawei to build a library of leading apps outside of China, as many rely on Google for services such as digital rights management, localization, payment and notification services, “Bryan Ma, vice president of device research at IDC, said CNBC.

Huawei was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

“Developers often have to be selective about the projects they spend their time on, and a key factor in making this decision is whether there is enough critical mass in the user base to justify the time and effort. efforts to port applications, “Ma said.

Huawei’s HMS is similar to Google Mobile Services and offers development kits that can be used to integrate elements such as location services into applications. The Chinese company said there were 60,000 applications using the so-called HMS Core services, but it did not break down the countries or regions in which they are located.

Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, called the number of apps “limited” and said Huawei still lacks the main apps.

“Outside of China, it will be difficult because most of the renowned applications come from major American developers – Netflix, Facebook properties (Instagram, WhatsApp), Google applications, etc. – who are obviously prohibited from collaborating with Huawei” said Shah.

“So overall, without renowned developers on board, it will be difficult to sell.”

Indeed, a number of important applications that are important in international markets are not on the Huawei App Store, called AppGallery. Users cannot download any Google apps or Facebook-owned services. Netflix or Spotify are also not available.

However, it does have the Amazon Shopping app, as well as the TikTok video sharing app, which belongs to the Chinese firm ByteDance.

Huawei has expressed its wish to put Google applications on the AppGallery.

“We hope Google services will be available through our AppGallery, as will the way Google services are available through the Apple App Store,” said Eric Xu, Huawei’s rotating president in an interview with CNBC in March.

But it will be a challenge, according to Ma.

“Aside from legal considerations, I find it very unlikely that Google will publish its own applications in the AppGallery because they have the same connections to its services as third parties. And if anything, they want to drive the use of their services” , he said. said.

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