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Huawei unveils Harmony, its homegrown operating system

Huawei unveils its HarmonyOS at a developer conference on Friday.
Huawei unveils its HarmonyOS at a developer conference on Friday. Photo: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

Amid uncertainty over its longterm access to Google's Android, Huawei on Friday detailed HarmonyOS, the operating system it has developed in-house over the past 2 years.

Why it matters: Huawei, which has been targeted by U.S. trade restrictions and security concerns, needs a Plan B if it loses access to Google's operating system and services. But it also faces an uphill battle in getting other key tech companies to adopt it.

Huawei detailed the operating system at a developer conference, with device business CEO Richard Yu describing it as distinct from Android and iOS in the way it is architected and well suited to running across a variety of devices.

  • Indeed, Huawei said Harmony will show up first not on phones, but on other kinds of devices. Huawei hopes to continue using Android on phones, it said.

Between the lines: It's clear Huawei sees this as a long-term bet rather than a short-term fix for its supply chain issues. The plan is to have Harmony running on a display later this year and over the next 3 years on speakers, watches and in-car systems.

Our thought bubble: Huawei says it will release the operating system as open source software and aim to get a wide range of developers in and out of China to build apps. But this will clearly be a big hurdle.

  • Samsung had similar hopes with Tizen, but has struggled to get a wide range of developers for that OS, which it uses on watches and other devices.

Go deeper: How Huawei is weathering U.S. sanctions