In response to the US’ sanctions and export bans, Huawei has been waging a campaign to rid itself of its dependence on Google’s mobile operating system, or at least its proprietary parts. Although it sounds like an epic endeavor to replace Android, Huawei’s Harmony OS definitely has big ambitions to be present in almost all smart markets. Going just beyond its own smartphones, however, there are now rumors that Huawei wants to spread its new platform to other phones as well, including those from its competitors and compatriots in China.
This sounds almost like a no-go if the initial impressions of Harmony OS 2.0 Beta are anything to go by. While Huawei defends that it isn’t really the final vision, the version that developers were given access to looked a lot like Android underneath a thin custom skin. That does make the transition a bit easier for both developers and smartphone makers but it pales in comparison to the grand and brand new experience that Huawei is promising.
Another limitation, at least as far as phones go, is that Harmony OS is supposedly developed to work primarily on Huawei’s own HiSilicon Kirin processors. Android itself has parts that are developed specifically for certain chipsets, like Qualcomm and MediaTek, among others, which is part of what makes it possible to run it on the majority of the world’s phones.
There is now a report that Harmony OS will undergo development to make it run on Qualcomm’s and MediaTek’s platforms, which means it will be able to run on phones beyond Huawei’s flagships. Even more interesting, however, is the rumor that Chinese smartphone makers are actually interested in using it for their phones. That’s not exactly outside the realm of possibility because Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo already run versions of Android without Google in China.
It will really all boil down to what Harmony OS on phones will turn out to be. If it’s simply a skin on top of Android, the change for smartphone makers won’t be that big and might not even make sense at all. If, on the other hand, it will be a truly new mobile OS from the ground up, Google stands to lose whatever small mind share it has in China through Android, even if it doesn’t officially have a presence there through Google Play Store.