Chinese telecom giant Huawei is set to introduce its HarmonyOS for its mobile phones at the beginning of June, a move which not only shows the company’s successful shift to a new business focus that can largely free it from US supply chains, but also shows China’s technological rise that starts to break the US monopoly of operating systems, experts said.
HarmonyOS, or Hongmeng in Chinese, the Huawei-developed operating system which is currently used in gadgets like wearable devices and smart screens, will be rolled out for its smart phones on June 2, Huawei confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday.
The company posted a short video on its Weibo account showing the boot screen of its HarmonyOS mobile phone, with many netizens commenting that they are anticipating the arrival of self-developed operating systems.
Chinese telecom analysts spoke highly of Huawei’s HarmonyOS phones, as it could not only help Huawei break US technological blockade, but also shows China’s powerful entry into the software field that has long been dominated by US IT giants like Apple and Google.
Zhang Yi, CEO of the iiMedia Research Institute, said that launch of the HarmonyOS by Huawei marks a “historic turning point” that China is increasingly free itself from the US restrictions on Chinese tech firms and the country’s general information industry.
“It sends a signal that Chinese companies can fight their way out of the US technological blockade as long as they insist on independent innovation, and that the so-called US technology myth is not unbreakable like many people thought,” Zhang told the Global Times.
For the company itself, a shift to the software business is also a wise choice as the software sector, whose upgrading cycle is much slower than hardware sets, can help Huawei win more time when its mobile phone business is facing difficulties arising from US chip supply restrictions, Zhang said.
“I think it’s just a matter of time before China breaks through mobile chip technological bottlenecks, but the rise of the software business will help Huawei survive this period instead of being beaten down by sudden blows,” Zhang said.
Huawei has been caught in the Trump administration’s strike against China’s technological rise, which resulted in global chips supplies to Huawei being blocked.
Huawei has been caught up in the US government’s strike against China’s technological rise, with measures taken that include the suspension of chip supplies.
Experts stressed that Huawei has found a new breaking point in smart solutions, software design and operating systems after its hardset business was hit by the US sanctions.
Huawei’s capability and flexibility in rapidly pivoting to new services to gain a foothold – for example, from making smart phones to the building of the HarmonyOS operating system, to smart cars and cloud computing – makes it increasingly immune from Western countries’ suppression in the industrial and supply chains, Fu Liang, a veteran telecom industry analyst, told the Global Times.
“Large-scale business transformation makes Huawei more like an internet and software company instead of a mobile original equipment manufacturer (OEM),” Fu said, adding that Huawei has a great role to play in the vast 5G+AI market in China with its 30 years’ experience in information and communication technology (ICT).
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in a memo recently that the company is focusing on software as the field’s development is fundamentally outside of US control, according to a Reuters report.
Huawei’s artificial intelligence business has flourished in multiple areas. For example, it has recently partnered with China Telecom’s branch in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province in building “intelligent mines,” arming sites with intelligent applications like 5G video communication and remote control workshops. It also recently released a “trajectory prediction” patent which can be used in AI self-driving.
Fu also said that Huawei’s software services may be exported to emerging countries given that many intelligent services and products do not need cutting-edge chips of 7nm or smaller.
Huawei’s launch of its self-developed operating system and other AI solutions are gaining wide support from domestic companies, which experts said can support the company to catch up with industry leaders like Apple and Google in about three to five years.
A group of local tech companies have been actively taking part in the joint construction of a self-developed ecosystem with Huawei. For example, Shanghai-based smart city services provider Yanhua Smartech said in February that part of the company’s software products are compatible with HarmonyOS, and the firm will continue to develop compatibility between its own products and HarmonyOS in line with market demand.
Huawei disclosed that about 300 million mobile phone sets will be installed with HarmonyOS by the end of 2021, with about 200 million being Huawei sets.
Zhang said that at a time when many Chinese companies are facing the threat of sanctions from the US, they are in urgent need of software that can replace US products.
“This need, plus China’s huge mobile phone user base and HarmonyOS’ advantage in integrating different platforms, a feature in which other systems like Android and iOS do not show particular superiority, I think HarmonyOS might become the world’s top operating system in about 3-5 years,” he noted.