Harmony OS: more than merely an Android replacement

© Flickr/CC-licence/Uncalno Tekno

© Flickr/CC-licence/Uncalno Tekno

  • Huawei plans to take the OS in two directions
  • It can travel onto IoT devices and smart home gadgets
  • And it can even be the platform for cloud native applications and microservices

Huawei’s Harmony OS has been profiled as a hedge against Huawei being left out in the Android cold as part of the US trade dispute with China, and Huawei’s alleged spying ambitions via its increasingly dominant position in telecoms network infrastructure.

But providing an Android alternative for China and, potentially beyond, is only one strand of the Harmony OS effort. 

According to Futuresource Consulting https://futuresource-consulting.com/ analyst, Ashwin Venkatchari, Huawei’s ambitions for Harmony are much broader. In fact Harmony is, in Huawei’s own words, “a micro-kernel based, distributed OS for all scenarios,” and that’s more than a nice piece of marketing blather. 

Huawei is aiming at nothing less than a cloud native platform equivalent to Linux at one end of the scale, and a portable OS lean enough to find its way onto Internet of Things things and smart home gadgets in addition to smartphones and laptops: in fact “every scenario”. 

Huawei claims that since Harmony OS is hardware agnostic and is built on a single kernel and a single app framework,  it represents a step above the other hybrid architectures such as Linux, Android and so on,” says Ashwin. Huawei bases that claim on its having adopted a more efficient scheduling model based on a real time ‘Deterministic Latency Engine’ that reallocates resources to meet application and service requirements. 

Ashwin says Huawei believes that, with the advent of 5G, the next biggest challenge is to provide seamless interoperability between the cloud, AI and IoT and that the Harmony OS can do just that.  

“In concept, the Huawei solution is simple,” he says. Make a secure OS that is decoupled from the hardware and able to work on all these devices.”

There are plenty of challenges, but the advantages are enormous, he says, such as being able to switch between otherwise disparate devices using a single app without any downtime. Plus, Harmony OS apps will only ever need to be written for a single platform thanks to its ARK compiler which supports multiple languages. 

Based on the roadmap Huawei has already shown, the Harmony OS rollout starts to pick up in 2020 with smartwatches, smart bands, personal computers and vehicle head units. In 2021 this could expand to speakers and other audio devices and from 2022 we can expect VR glasses and an even more diverse range of products and applications.

“The biggest challenges that Huawei faces to ensure the success of Harmony OS is convincing the device manufacturers to switch to an entirely new ecosystem,” says Ashwin. “And, of course, the biggest headache everyone in the world is contending with at the moment – COVID-19 – and the economic recession that is widely expected as a result of this.”



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