Dongguan (China) (AFP)
Chinese telecom giant Huawei, threatened to lose access to Android because of US sanctions, Friday unveiled a new operating system that should equip its mobile phones and "bring more harmony" to the world.
The system, dubbed "HarmonyOS", was introduced by executive director Richard Yu at a group developers' conference in Dongguan, southern China. It is intended to equip the different types of brand appliances within the same "ecosystem".
"We want to bring more harmony (...) to the world," said Yu, while Huawei is blacklisted by the United States, who suspect him of spying for Beijing, what he denies.
Huawei, world number two in smartphones, was trapped in May, by the twists and turns of the trade war between Beijing and Washington against a background of technological rivalry.
The blacklisting of one who is considered to be the leader in 5G technology means that American companies are theoretically no longer allowed to sell technology products to them. A three-month exemption period - which ends next week - has been granted by Washington.
The ban also concerns Google and the supply of its Android system, which equips the vast majority of smartphones in the world, including those of Huawei.
The group has always publicly defended itself from wanting to replace Android on its phones with a home operating system but claims to be constrained by US sanctions.
"If we can not use it anymore, we'll be able to play all our apps on HarmonyOS," said Richard Yu.
"We could do it immediately but our priority is to continue using the Android ecosystem," he said, calling Google a "very good company."
- "Completely different" -
Developing an operating system with the entire ecosystem that accompanies it, so as to attract users and developers, is complex.
In addition to Google's Android, the only other popular operating system is Apple's iOS, available exclusively on the iPhone.
The firm in Shenzhen (South China) has been working since 2012 on its own operating system, initially designed for the Internet of Things.
HarmonyOS "is completely different from Android and iOS," said Yu. Google is also working on its own versatile operating system project, "but it's not yet in the stage of realization". he observed.
However, tech experts say the task is far from accomplished for Huawei.
"There are a lot of big promises, but it will be an even bigger challenge to build an ecosystem of apps that can compete with Android," said The Verge, a US site that tracks technology news.
But without access to the full version of Android, the popular services of Google, not to mention the multiple applications available on Google Play, Huawei may have trouble convincing consumers outside China to choose his phones.
Yu said that HarmonyOS will be installed on the smart screens that will be launched before the end of the year. It will then be extended to other devices (watches, speakers, systems for automobiles ...), in China first and then in the rest of the world.
The executive director of Huawei, however, was evasive about the schedule of deployment of the system on smartphones.
"This is not yet relevant," he said, explaining that the decision would depend on the evolution of US sanctions.
The system will be open to all in "open source".
Meanwhile, Huawei remains at the heart of the Sino-American discord.
China on Thursday denounced the rules announced the day before by the United States banning the group and other Chinese companies from US government procurement, accusing Washington of "abuse of power."
Huawei was founded in the 1980s by a former Chinese army engineer, Ren Zhengfei. His own daughter, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested last year in Canada, at the request of the United States, who suspects her of violating an embargo against Iran while she was Huawei's chief financial officer.
Ms. Meng is still awaiting extradition to Canada.
Without these "outside elements", Huawei could have become the world's number one mobile phone company this year, Yu said.
The group remains number two, ahead of Apple but behind the South Korean Samsung.
© 2019 AFP