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Huawei unveils HarmonyOS operating system, says it's ready for phones

CNET logo CNET 8/9/2019 Daniel Van Boom
a close up of a computer: Angela Lang/CNET © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Angela Lang/CNET

Since being blacklisted in May by US President Donald Trump, Huawei has been rumoured to be working on its own operating system. We've heard that it's called Hongmeng, that it's designed to work across smart devices and power Huawei's phones as an alternative to Google's Android. On Friday Huawei revealed most of that to be true. At its Huawei Developer Conference (HDC), it made its new operating system official: HarmonyOS.

Speaking at HDC, CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group Richard Yu said HarmonyOS is ready to run on phones, but "for the consideration of partnership and ecosystem" Huawei won't be using it on phones just yet. Yu did say, though, that if the company isn't able to use Google's Android operating system, HarmonyOS is ready to go.

Migrating from Android to HarmonyOS, Yu said, would only take a few days. The operating system will support a variety of app languages, including Android, Linux and HTML5. Yu also revealed that HarmonyOS, like Android, will be open source. That means developers can take HarmonyOS and modify it for their hardware, a feature which has formed the foundation of Android's success. 

HarmonyOS will first come to smart TVs and other "smart screen" devices later this year, and in the coming years it will migrate to car infotainment systems, wearables and more. 

Huawei has been a target of the US lawmakers over concerns about its coziness with the Chinese government and fears that its equipment could be used to spy on other countries and companies. This was the basis of Trump's May blacklisting of the company, which barred it from using US products and would mean no access to Android. Huawei has repeatedly said those fears are unfounded, and Trump has since said he'll reverse the ban.

a screen shot of a computer © CNET

Just like Apple does at WWDC , Huawei also revealed details about the next iteration of its phone software, EMUI 10. (EMUI is Huawei's modified version of Android which, as above, the company will stick with for now.)

EMUI10, which will ship with the upcoming Mate 30 phones, will also focus on cross-device compatibility, and will be able to integrate with smart TVs, laptops, cars and even drones. Calls received by an EMUI 10 phone can be answered through a smart TV, for instance, and your phone screen can be beamed onto a laptop display. 

"With software, we are combing the laptop and the phone into a new device," Wang Chenglu, said Huawei's software head.

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