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Huawei unveils its own phone, computer and smart device OS

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Huawei unveiled an operating system that can run phones, computers and smart devices, but said it would strongly prefer to keep using Android and Windows if it can.

The Chinese company, which is now the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, said on Friday it wanted to have options if its access to Western technology is cut off.

In May, Google said it would have to stop licensing its smartphone operating system Android to Huawei to comply with a White House ban on selling to the Chinese company.

A temporary reprieve to the ban, which has allowed Huawei to continue using Android, expires later this month. Without a licence, Huawei phones would not receive security updates or be able to access Google’s Play app store.

“We still want to support Google’s ecosystem. If, at the end of this year or next year, we still cannot use Android or Google, then we have to use our HarmonyOS,” said Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business group. 

HarmonyOS — known as ‘Hongmeng’ in Chinese, a reference to the formless state before the beginning of the world — will be initially rolled out on smart appliances, cars and virtual reality devices. The company said it was considering installing Harmony on its flagship Mate 30 phone, due to launch later this year. 

When asked whether apps like Gmail, Facebook and WhatsApp would be available on the open source system, Mr Yu said: “The top US apps can be easily transferred with very minor work, it’s very easy to transfer them.”

Google has told the Trump administration that if it is prevented from allowing updates on its Android operating system on Huawei phones, it would lead to the Chinese tech giant developing its own version of the software which would be more susceptible to being hacked, not least by China. 

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“After being used in actual products, Huawei will be able to build experience, educate the market, developers and consumer and consistently improve the operating system,” said Jia Mo, an analyst at market research firm Canalys. “As Harmony develops and becomes more mature, it will have a direct impact on both Windows and Android. 

Huawei is unlikely to meet its previous goal of becoming the world’s largest smartphone maker by shipments because of the US-China trade war, but is on track to retain its number 2 position, Mr Yu said. Despite its US blacklisting, Huawei’s sales rose 23 per cent in the first half of the year from strong domestic sales.

Additional reporting by Nian Liu in Beijing

Via Financial Times

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