I’m not really sure what type of message Chinese tech firm Huawei was trying to send at their developers conference keynote on Friday, but I’m certainly more confused now about the company’s plans than I was before reading the coverage and following along with their social media feeds. The headline item to come out of the early-morning event (here in the U.S. anyway) was the introduction of HarmonyOS, Huawei’s Android replacement.
The presentation of HarmonyOS included very few actual details about the user interface and no actual screenshots of the software, but in Huawei CEO Richard Yu’s words, the new OS is “more powerful and secure than Android.” According to Yu, Huawei will keep the OS limited to China for now, though they have plans to bring it to international markets down the road.
The number-two smartphone maker globally, Huawei was essentially forced into a situation where it had to develop its own operating system after the U.S. Commerce Department blacklisted them, making it impossible for any American firms to do business with Huawei. The problems extend beyond software, though. Huawei works with dozens of American component providers who have supplied chips and glass screens for their smartphones and other devices. But most notable is Google, which has given Huawei access to its Android operating system—the most popular operating system in the world—and its suite of apps, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and more. With access to all of that hardware and software essentially cut off, Huawei is left scrambling to find replacement parts.