The world's number one manufacturer of telecommunications equipment and number two smartphone vendor
is under siege from all sides of the mobile industry as a result of mounting US political pressure, but both officially and unofficially, Huawei has repeatedly suggested contingency plans are in place to tackle a prospective "worst-case scenario."
Said scenario could come into effect in a couple of months if no trade agreement between China and the US is reached, as President Trump's reprieve
will expire and a long list of key Huawei partners
and major components suppliers
are expected to cut all business ties with the controversial tech giant. That's likely to include Google
and Microsoft, which will no longer be able to allow Huawei to use their popular operating systems, services, and apps on the company's smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and laptops.
Enter Huawei OS
, aka Ark OS
, aka HongMeng
, aka the most vital piece of the company's backup plan puzzle for just this type of situation. While Trump's executive order last month deeming Huawei a "critical national security threat" may have taken us by surprise, "HongMeng" work reportedly kicked off
seven whole years ago in anticipation of such actions from the US and in order to reduce reliance on Google... someday.
Huawei's in-house OS is still not ready for primetime
Unfortunately for Huawei, the day of reckoning has come early and suddenly, as despite so many years of preparation and "thousands" of internal tests, the HongMeng program remains unfinished. Its biggest rumored problem is system-wide Android compatibility, which would ideally allow it to seamlessly download and run every single app designed specifically for Google's market-leading software platform.
Naturally, that's something that needs a great deal of time and care to get just right, and alas, Huawei's engineers are quickly running out of time. Ever since 2012, the reported goal of this ambitious project that was largely kept under wraps until recently was to emulate the best Android and iOS features and somehow make them better. While the "Ark OS" core is described by inside sources in glowing terms, as a "light microkernel that can react quickly to adjustments and batches", it remains unclear how close Huawei is to cracking the Android compatibility code.
If the company does manage to ultimately reach its objective, it may not need developers to build apps specifically
for Huawei's Android and Play Store alternatives either. But that's a big if, and it might be the main reason why the OS doesn't have a "solid commercial release date" (or an official name) yet.
Tests are ramping up and a release of some kind will happen soon
If Trump's ban is not abolished in the next couple of months or so, Huawei has no choice but to roll out this currently unfinished, inadequately tested operating system and hope for the best. Until that happens, all the consumer product tests that weren't performed all these years will have to be pretty hastily executed.
As such, Huawei is said to have recently shipped 1 million HongMeng-based smartphones
for pre-release evaluation purposes. You know what that means, right? Leaks are most likely coming, so even if the OS only ends up seeing daylight in the spring, we should start learning things about it before long.
For the time being, all we know is that security will be a major focus, with "increased functions" designed to "protect personal data." Huawei also wants this bad boy to run on all its devices, ranging from phones to tablets, wearables, computers, televisions, and even the cars of the future.
Of course, it's still hard to believe Western consumers will be quick to adopt a mobile operating system lacking Google apps and services (as well as many other US-made products), but at least for a little while, the Chinese market alone should keep Huawei's smartphone business afloat