Huawei’s Harmony aims to end China’s Reliance on Windows, Android

Packed into a small room, a drone, bipedal robot, supermarket checkout and other devices showcase a vision of China’s software future – one where an operating system developed by national champion Huawei has replaced Windows and Android.

The collection is at the Harmony Ecosystem Innovation Centre in the southern city of Shenzhen, a local government-owned entity that encourages authorities, companies and hardware makers to develop software using OpenHarmony, an open-source version of the operating system Huawei launched five years ago after U.S. sanctions cut off support for Google’s, opens new tab Android.

While Huawei’s recent strong-selling smartphone launches have been closely watched for signs of advances in China’s chip supply chain, the company has also quietly built up expertise in sectors crucial to Beijing’s vision of technology self-sufficiency from operating systems to in-vehicle software.

President Xi Jinping last year told the Communist Party’s elite politburo that China must wage a difficult battle to localise operating systems and other technology “as soon as possible” as the U.S. cracks down on exports of advanced chips and other components.

OpenHarmony is now being widely promoted within China as a “national operating system” amid concerns that other major companies could be severed from the Microsoft, opens new tab Windows and Android products upon which many systems rely.

“This strategic move will likely erode the market share of Western operating systems like Android and Windows in China, as local products gain traction,” said Sunny Cheung, an associate fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. defence policy group.

In the first quarter of 2024, Huawei’s HarmonyOS, the company’s in-house version of the operating system, surpassed Apple’s (AAPL.O), opens new tab iOS to become the second best-selling mobile operating system in China behind Android, research firm Counterpoint said. It has not been launched on smartphones outside China.

Huawei no longer controls OpenHarmony, having gifted its source code to a non-profit called the OpenAtom Foundation in 2020 and 2021, according to an internal memo and other releases.

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Herman Everett

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