Issue 45

Huawei's backup plan is... Harmony

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 In his on-stage presentation he said that Android isn't  as efficient due to its redundant codes, outdated scheduling mechanism  and general fragmentation issues.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:

At what point does profit become important?

Note to Silicon Valley: a billion-dollar valuation might buy you time but it doesn't guarantee your survival.

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:


Other bits of interest


Image of the week

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:

That's all for now. If you enjoyed this issue, feel free to share it via email


Issue 45: Huawei's backup plan is... Harmony was compiled by 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 their Keybase or Riot.im account.