Huawei officially reveals Harmony OS, its first party operating system

In the city of Dongguan, China, Huawei finally took the wraps off its long-rumored, first-party operating system. The OS, called Harmony OS. It has been in development for several years, but it’s recently taken on a role as a key player in Huawei’s contingency plan since the United States enacted a trade ban on the Chinese technology company. At the Huawei Developer Conference, Huawei shared the first details about its in-house OS, but the company wasn’t ready to show off Harmony on smartphones just yet. Tomorrow, the company will show off Harmony OS on the Honor Vision TV For now, Android remains the go-to mobile OS for Huawei and Honor smartphones and tablets.

Huawei says that performance is theoretically better than Android and other Linux-based operating systems . Harmony OS uses a distributed virtual bus with a simplified protocol: Rather than 4 layers, there is only 1 layer in the protocol stack to “boost the payload efficiency.” The effects of this change to simplify interactions are “faster discovery and connections” of hardware like the display, cameras, speakers, etc.

Yet, this new OS is still “plan B” for the Chinese technology giant, since Huawei will need to solve the biggest hole in the adoption of Harmony OS: the app ecosystem. Huawei is building up its AppGallery platform as an alternative to the Google Play Store, and this week the company unveiled Huawei Mobile Services as an alternative to Google Play Services. Huawei is in the process of building its own ecosystem, and if the trade ban doesn’t lift by the end of this year or early next year, then Huawei will be forced to switch to Harmony OS for its new devices, including the upcoming Huawei Mate 30 series. In fact, Richard Yu confirmed that the Mate 30 did not receive certification to use Google Play Services before the trade ban was enacted, so Huawei is considering using Harmony OS on the device if the ban isn’t lifted in time.

Huawei says that its new OS represents an entirely new generation of operating systems as it enables AI capability in different scenarios from PCs, tablets, and other domains. Huawei has already been internally testing its new operating system on multiple devices, though Richard Yu did not confirm if the foldable Huawei Mate X was among those test devices. Mr. Yu says that “many” partners have expressed interest in developing products with Harmony OS, but he declined to provide names of the interested parties. In a press release, Huawei says they will “lay the foundations for Harmony OS in the Chinese market” first before expanding it to the global market.

We’ll learn more about Huawei’s new operating system this week at Huawei’s Developer Conference.