Now that Huawei’s Android license has been revoked, the company is accelerating its operating system development efforts but per a new report from The Information, the platform is nowhere near completion. This contrasts with an earlier report that alleged that Huawei's consumer business boss Richard Yu said that the company’s mobile OS will be here by fall.
As a refresher, the U.S. government recently blacklisted Huawei, and bending to the decision, Google cut off the Chinese company’s access to its apps and services. However, Huawei saw this coming, and as The Information reports, the company has been proactively collecting components from U.S. companies to ensure a steady supply in case the worse comes to worst.
Similarly, the company reportedly started its in-house software development efforts back in 2012, when the U.S. government had a tiff with the fellow Chinese company ZTE. Yu has said that the recent events have forced the company to launch its own OS and ecosystem, and looking at the language, it clearly seems that the company wasn’t prepared to launch its Android alternative anytime soon.
In fact, the sentiment has been echoed by some people privy to the matter, as they claim that the company’s OS, which is internally called the “Project Z,” is nowhere near ready. As is apparent, software just doesn’t seem to Huawei’s thing and even if the company does manage to roll it out by fall, the job will be far from done. For any OS to survive, a strong ecosystem of apps is needed and getting developers to recompile their apps might prove to be an indomitable task. Currently, the company has some breathing room, as the ban has been put on hold for three months to allow some necessary transactions such as software updates.
However, the situation looks grim right now, and unless some sort of settlement is reached with the U.S. government, future Huawei phones will not come pre-installed with popular Google apps and services such as YouTube, Gmail, and Google Assistant. While this may not be a problem for Chinese consumers, as most of these apps are banned in China anyway, lack of popular apps can make the upcoming phones a tough sell in overseas markets, which account for half of the smartphone sales.
In fact, the report says that Huawei’s original plan was to launch the new OS in China first. In addition to smartphones, it was to power a number of devices such as wearables and the company was planning to launch the cross-platform OS around the same time as the deployment of 5G networks. Testing the software domestically first would have allowed the company to iron out bugs before rolling it out to the global audience. If a 2018 report from South China Morning Post is to go by, the OS has nothing on Android. Since Huawei can still access the Android Open Source Project, perhaps it will make more sense to make its OS on top of that.
However, as Yu said, the U.S. government took Huawei by surprise by blocking it from using Android and now the company is in a tight spot. On the other hand, the tech giant’s CEO Ren Zhengfei is much more confident and says that the blockades will not affect its business.
Of course, the recent restrictions will certainly have some repercussions for Huawei. For instance, even though it makes its own Kirin chipsets, it is still heavily reliant on processors from Intel and radio-frequency parts from U.S. companies like Skyworks Solutions. It’s a tough time for Huawei and it will be interesting to see how it weathers the storm.