Huawei's upcoming HongMeng OS has been the talk of the consumer world since Google revoked Huawei's Android license. Now, unfortunately, it appears as though HongMeng isn't designed as an Android alternative and that Android is still Huawei's go-to operating system, Senior Vice President Catherine Chen says.
According to Xinhua, Chen says that "the recently-trademarked HongMeng is for industrial use and actually has been in development long before the current discussions around finding an alternative to Android," the publication states. Chen went on to say that HongMeng doesn't contain nearly as many lines of code as one needs for a mobile operating system, making it ideal for Internet of Things (IoT) solutions but impossible to use for mobile devices.
Huawei now intends to stick with Android as its go-to operating system in its Mate, Nova, and other phone series, and HongMeng is in a different category of devices for business use and not consumer leisure purposes.
Chen's report may seal the deal in some minds, but it's a troubling statement when one considers all Huawei has said on HongMeng up until now. Media reports surfaced that HongMeng has been in the works as a backup to Android for the last seven years, that Huawei had a special counsel of employees come together behind closed doors (top-secret stuff) to plan its Android alternative in the event of a US ban such as the current Trump situation.
Then, it was told that Huawei has been testing the new OS on its upcoming Mate 30, that Vivo and Oppo have been testing the new OS and find it to be 60% faster than Android.
We've also seen Huawei send out emails to Google Play developers to come make apps for the company's AppGallery store. We've heard little else on that front, but Huawei's CEO has said in an interview that it will take some years for an Android alternative to get off the ground, that the company is not ready to launch a mobile alternative just yet. But if this is the case, then why test the new OS on mobile devices, have other companies test it on their phones? Why email mobile app developers to persuade them to come make apps for your new app store if there is no operating system in place already?
And to make matters worse, Huawei has said that Google would lose 800 million users from Android if Huawei actually left the platform — not a good sign for a company on the US Entity List that's looking to recoup something from the $30 billion it stands to lose over the next two years.
First, it should be made clear: one cannot believe what Huawei says, but rather, what Huawei does. Huawei says that Android is its go-to mobile operating system, but if the company wakes up on August 19th and finds itself on the outside of Android looking in, the company will have no choice but to turn to HongMeng for its mobile needs unless it uses another open-source platform such as Jolla/Sailfish or even barebones AOSP.
There's a personal motivation for Huawei doing a complete reversal of its earlier position, though: the company is hoping to get off the Entity List thanks to Trump's relaxation of the ban, and Huawei doesn't want to anger Google to the point that Google never invites Huawei back to Android. Remember when Samsung took its Galaxy Gear smartwatches off Android and updated them to Tizen OS?
Samsung's decision to develop its smartwatches running Tizen didn't receive applause from Google but rather, some heated backdoor discussions. Google wasn't happy with Samsung developing for its own independent wearables platform. It's highly debatable that Google would be pleased with Huawei going its own way as well.
The real motivating factor for Huawei is President Trump. He's extended an olive branch to Huawei, allowing high-tech US companies to sell to Huawei once more, though still treating Huawei as a national security risk. Huawei is considering the idea that Trump may take Huawei off the Entity List, but Trump can't do it alone.
He'll need the help of Congress, thanks to new bills introduced in the House and Senate over the last week. The new bills (the Senate bill being called "Defending America's 5G Future Act") mandate Congress to agree on removing Huawei from the Entity List if Huawei is to be removed, and Congress can overturn companies receiving selling licenses for Huawei.
These new executive measures are designed to check the power of the President, who has already given Huawei more "wiggle room" than Congress wants it to have.
Huawei has dreams of getting off the Entity List, but it'll need more than a dream to achieve it. And if it doesn't break free by August 19th, it'll need HongMeng to be more of a solution than the Internet of Things (IoT) can afford.