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Huawei announces own smartphone operating system amid US uncertainty

The i logo The i 09/08/2019
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Huawei has developed its own operating system for smartphones and smart home devices amid ongoing uncertainty over the company's relationships with the US and its tech companies.

The new open-source software, called HarmonyOS in English and HongmengOS in Chinese, can be adapted for use across a wide variety of electronic devices, Huawei announced during its annual developers' conference.

While Huawei smartphones currently run Google's Android operating system, Google suspended the Chinese company's licence to use it in May after the US government placed Huawei on the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Entity List, an index of companies and people deemed a threat to American security.

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A modularized #HarmonyOS can be nested to adapt flexibly to any device to create a seamless cross-device experience. Developed via the distributed capability kit, it builds the foundation of a shared developer ecosystem #HDC2019 pic.twitter.com/2TD9cgtdG8

— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) August 9, 2019

Inclusion on the list bans US companies from selling technology to Huawei without governmental approval.

US intelligence agencies including the National Security Agency (NSA), FBI and CIA have previously implored American citizens to avoid using Huawei smartphones, other electronics and services over fears the company may pass user data back to the Chinese government and engage in espionage.

Huawei has repeatedly denied all allegations its equipment could be used for espionage and ties to its native government beyond paying taxes, but the US and Australia have both banned its equipment from use in their respective forthcoming 5G networks.

In this image from video released by Huawei, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, speaks during a news conference in Dongguan, China, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Huawei unveiled a smartphone operating system that it said can replace Google's Android, adding to the Chinese tech giant's efforts to insulate itself against U.S. sanctions. The announcement of HarmonyOS highlights the growing ability of Huawei, the No. 2 global smartphone brand and biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers, to create technology and reduce its reliance on American vendors. (Huawei via AP) © Getty In this image from video released by Huawei, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, speaks during a news conference in Dongguan, China, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Huawei unveiled a smartphone operating system that it said can replace Google's Android, adding to the Chinese tech giant's efforts to insulate itself against U.S. sanctions. The announcement of HarmonyOS highlights the growing ability of Huawei, the No. 2 global smartphone brand and biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers, to create technology and reduce its reliance on American vendors. (Huawei via AP)

Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei's consumer business group, said HarmonyOS was designed to be used across a broad range of devices and platforms.

"It has trustworthy and secure architecture, and it supports seamless collaboration across devices," he said. "You can develop your apps once, they flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices."

DONGGUAN, CHINA - AUGUST 09: Guests arrive for the Huawei Developer Conference 2019 (HDC 2019) at the Songshan Lake on August 9, 2019 in Dongguan, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by Huanqiu.com/VCG via Getty Images) © Getty DONGGUAN, CHINA - AUGUST 09: Guests arrive for the Huawei Developer Conference 2019 (HDC 2019) at the Songshan Lake on August 9, 2019 in Dongguan, Guangdong Province of China. (Photo by Huanqiu.com/VCG via Getty Images)

The new system will be shipped with Huawei's smart screen products, such as TV sets,  later this year, launching in China before being rolled out to other countries.

While HarmonyOS will be adapted for wearables and heat units for cars within the next three years, Huawei said the situation in regards to whether they can use Android on smartphones is still “unclear”, with Yu admitting the company was "waiting on an update".

Huawei's future in the US also remains unclear. After officials said the administration was prepared to grant licences to trade with Huawei in July, despite having to remain on the Entity List, it is currently delaying granting them after Beijing announced it was halting purchases of US farming goods, according to Bloomberg.

Gallery: From phone makers to farmers, the toll of Trump's trade wars (Reuters)


Donald Trump had previously claimed Huawei could be used as part of a trade deal between the US and China, despite deeming the telecoms giant worthy of inclusion on the list which “poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States”.

“You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint, it’s very dangerous," he said in May.

“So it’s possible that Huawei even would be included in some kind of a trade deal. If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form, some part of a trade deal.”

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