With Harmony OS Huawei introduces us to a new era, but the Chinese are not alone. The Android era may soon be coming to an end. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, not even for Google.
To meet the critical voices directly: No, of course Android isn't dead yet, Fuchsia has been hovering in a vacuum forever and Harmony OS is hardly more than a screenshot and a big idea. At Google, the executives will not be trembling in a corner and looking anxiously into the future just yet. But a closer look reveals that a change of status quo for mobile operating systems could be closer than some experts currently think.
Huawei's plans for its own operating system as an alternative to Android have been long at the drawing board but were more or less half-heartedly pursued. At the least, since the US embargo against the Chinese company, however, there has been movement in the matter. At its first really big Developer Conference last week, Huawei gathered more than 6,000 developers and showed them how they see a future with Harmony OS. The focus is on the development of new ecosystems.
According to Huawei, it already has around 530 million users worldwide who use its various products and services. With Harmony OS, they should now have such a beautiful new home that it eliminates the need to leave. Harmony OS is supposed to connect all devices and create access to all content without the users getting a longing for Google and Co. In return, the software gets new developer tools, a microkernel as a basis and a latency engine for particularly scalable and permanently fast performance.
Harmony OS should be open to everyone
In its communication on Harmony OS, Huawei particularly emphasizes the openness of the system: "Open access to the further development of the ecosystem is an important factor. Huawei is, therefore, opening 14 different types of the HMS core required for development with devices. With 51 services and 885 interfaces, developers from all over the world can implement their ideas more efficiently. Already, more than 43,000 apps are based on the HMS core."
But it's not just Huawei which is striving for freedom from Android and Google. Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, OnePlus and more have also realized the disadvantages of relying on a system that is not under their own control. Samsung had Tizen as a possible backup system for a long time, which is currently only used by smartwatches. It's a long way from those to smartphones, but Tizen has at least a small but passionate fan community and developer community around it. Above all, the up-and-coming Chinese manufacturers know exactly how quickly they can be hit by trouble from the White House, which has already ruined the smartphone business of ZTE to a large extent and is now seriously damaging Huawei. The development of an alternative, possibly also together with local partners, is extremely close - and would make Android superfluous for a large part of the global market.
These efforts are also demonstrated by Android customizations. They are much more than just launchers. Whether EMUI, One UI, Oxygen OS or one of the many other systems, they take what they need from Android and extend the core of the system with their own features and self-designed apps as an alternative to what Google offers. Huawei and Samsung are also increasingly focusing on their own app stores. I'll give you a theory that I don't think is so daring: many smartphone users wouldn't even notice if their smartphone wasn't running Android anymore, as long as the interface looks the same and the apps run. This is exactly the goal of projects like Harmony OS, and they are comparatively easy to implement.
If you look at the Android versions since 8.0 Oreo, you'll notice that so many completely new features are not to be seen there. The system appears in large parts to be fully developed, mature and simply somehow "finished". There are areas in which a mobile system could be further developed, for example in view of 5G and artificial intelligence, which make it possible to outsource more and more tasks from smartphones to the cloud.
Keep tinkering or start over?
The question is: should Google continue to work on Android together with the developer community and partners, or would it rather develop a new system? Anyone who has ever had anything to do with software knows that development comes to a point where constant changes and modifications are much more work than completely new development. With Android, the question also arises as to whether the kernel is at all suitable for many of the new requirements.
So Google could also use a breath of fresh air, and there is already a suitable system as a basis - namely Fuchsia. The designated successor of Chrome OS and Android has been developed for quite some time and is always haunted by the vastness of the Internet when something is wrong with Android. Whether Fuchsia would really do everything better or different to Android is an open question. However, this also applies to Harmony OS and Co. All new systems still have to prove themselves. But the whole development is currently going in one direction: towards the end of Android. And that's not bad for now, not even for Google.