Huawei's backup plan is... Harmony

Issue 36/2019

Huawei has a plan and it's... Harmony, with a capital H:

"Huawei's long-rumored Android alternative, Hongmeng, is finally official. At today's Huawei Developer Conference, the company's Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu surprised the audience by unveiling "HarmonyOS," which he says is faster and safer than Android. Yu says that when Huawei can no longer access Google's Android ecosystem, the company can deploy HarmonyOS "at any time." Until then, Huawei will continue to support Android.

Yu's presentation was rather technical but in a nutshell, HarmonyOS is positioned as a future-proof, "microkernel-based, distributed OS for all scenarios." The platform is open source, and it's actually more of a competitor to Google's upcoming Fuchsia, given that both are microkernel-based and can be used on multiple types of devices at once. In his on-stage presentation he said that Android isn't as efficient due to its redundant codes, outdated scheduling mechanism and general fragmentation issues. Shots fired."

The United States has it out for Huawei (see the The bits below) so this move was inevitable, as what good is a smartphone without a modern operating system? Huawei had to do something and while option A is no doubt to continue using its own launcher on Google's Android, it really, really needed a backup plan.

What surprised me was not the announcement of HarmonyOS, essentially a not-so-subtle re-branding of "Hongmeng", Huawei's long-rumoured operating system, but that is has been in the works since 2017. As Yu alluded to, "Hongmeng" was likely an operating system designed solely for the internet of things (e.g. speakers, vehicles, watches, fridges), not smartphones. The trade war probably forced Huawei into making it smartphone compatible far sooner than it had intended (if it had ever intended to make the pivot), so that if/when the United States forbids Google from trading with Huawei, it has something it can use on its phones. Huawei is, after all, a hardware company (at least for now).

My thoughts are that in the short term, HarmonyOS is a negative for Huawei: it's an investment it otherwise wouldn't have made given the choice, which is a decent test of whether a company believes an investment is beneficial or not. But it's definitely a positive for consumers. Why? Huawei's move into the mobile operating system space creates some much-needed competition to the duopoly that is iOS/Android. Better still Huawei is going to make it open source, so even if it fails the scraps can be used in other projects.

In the longer term, HarmonyOS may even work out for Huawei, provided it isn't completely awful. The mobile operating space is not an easy nut to crack, as Samsung found out with its failed attempt at a mobile operating system, Tizen, as did Microsoft with its Windows Phone.

Enjoy the rest of this week's issue. Cheers,

— Justin


The bits


It's good to have a backup plan

Huawei cannot get HarmonyOS out the door soon enough if the "progress" in China's dispute with the United States is anything to go by. First step, a smart TV, which as noted above was probably the original plan anyway. The big test will come when it has to roll it out to mobile phones.

Learn more:



A good use-case for machine learning

Regulations, once passed, are static. That means AI is well suited to working out how to comply with them, as we are seeing with Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which you can thank for all those annoying "we use cookies" pop-ups. Much like the number of tax accountants needed to navigate some tax codes, it's generally wasteful but very much needed.

Learn more:



Image of the week

View source

Before video games were blamed for gun violence, novels were (1904)

There's always a scapegoat and before video games could be blamed for gun violence, it was dime novels (1904).


This week's data breaches


Most major data breaches occur through phishing, e.g. hacking people, not code. Or they occur when people leave data unencrypted somewhere. Be very careful about to whom you give your personal details, even if at first glance it might seem to be nothing but a harmless robocall blocking app.

The breaches:


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Issue 36/2019: Huawei's backup plan is... Harmony was compiled by Dr Justin Pyvis and delivered on 13 August, 2019. Feel free to send feedback, suggestions for future issues, ideas, insults, or pretty much anything that crosses your mind to his Keybase or Twitter account.