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Interesting video but also sounds like a sales pitch for Huawei too


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Huawei likely to release phone with Hongmeng OS in Q4, Chinese state media says

Huawei looks to be moving away from Google's Android.

By Daniel Van Boom August 4, 2019 10:31 PM PDT




Will they or won't they? That's been the question when it comes to Huawei building an operating system for its phones since May, when the US government blacklisted the Chinese electronics giant from US goods, most crucially Google's Android operating system. On Sunday Chinese state-run media publication Global Times said that, yes, Huawei is indeed going ahead with a mobile operating system of its own.


Huawei is currently testing a phone with its own Hongmeng OS, the Global Times said. An unnamed source told the publication that Huawei will release a 2,000 yuan (roughly $290) Hongmeng-powered phone in the fourth quarter, and that it'll show up "along with the Huawei Mate 30 series." 


If true, this means Hongmeng would be used on Huawei's lower-tier phones while Android, which Huawei is once again able to use following Trump reversing his previous blacklisting, will power flagship devices like the Mate and Pro phones.


This would make sense, as in July Huawei executive Catherine Chen said Hongmeng is being built, but not for phones. It's designed for internet-of-things (IoT) devices, like smart TVs, noting that it contains far fewer lines of code than a phone OS. Bumping the OS sophistication to run on low-end phones would be similar to a strategy sometimes employed by Samsung, whose Tizen operating system powers smart watches, cameras and the occasional budget-priced phone.


But Huawei's comments on Hongmeng haven't been completely consistent, as company founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei said last month that Hongmeng is "likely" to be faster than Android. He did say, like Chen, that Hongmeng is intended to work across IoT devices, and noted Huawei was working to create an app ecoyststem to rival the Google Play Store and Apple's App Store.

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HarmonyOS: What's with Huawei's Android-replacement operating system?

The Chinese phone maker's alternative to Google Android is also about TVs, cars, tablets and other devices.

August 9, 2019 1:28 PM PDT



Information on Huawei's homegrown OS has been fragmented.


We'd been hearing whispers that Huawei was creating its own operating system for phones, tablets and other smart devices, a precaution in case it lost access to Google's Android software. And the Chinese company confirmed this Friday at its Huawei Developer Conference, where it officially unveiled the new operating system: HarmonyOS, a cross-device platform previously known as HongMeng.


Speaking at HDC, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business, said HarmonyOS is ready to run on phones if the company isn't able to use Android, but Huawei will hold off using it "for the consideration of partnership and ecosystem." 


The much-maligned Huawei may've been working on the new operating system since 2012. But reports about HarmonyOS heated up in the wake of the US government blacklisting Huawei in May. The company was added to the Commerce Department's "entity list," following an executive order from President Donald Trump that effectively banned it from US communications networks due to Huawei's alleged ties with the Chinese government. The ban means Huawei can't buy products or services from US companies, or use their tech.


What is HarmonyOS?

Yu said that, like Android, HarmonyOS will be open source, allowing developers to modify it for their hardware and opening the potential for a broader embrace of the platform. Yu also said migrating from Android to HarmonyOS would take a few days, and that the cross-device operating system will support a variety of app languages, including Android, Linux and HTML5.


Previously, Huawei expressed some uncertainty about its ability to use Android in future devices as it waited for Commerce Department clearance in the wake of the Trump administration's restrictions.


Huawei executive Catherine Chen acknowledged last month that HarmonyOS was being built, but said it wasn't for phones. She said it was originally designed for internet of things (IoT) devices like smart TVs, and that it contains far fewer lines of code than a phone OS.


Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei reportedly echoed the IoT point but boasted that the homegrown OS is about 60% faster than Android -- suggesting that it had in fact been made for phones. Ren also said HarmonyOS devices will require their own app store, which we've heard some evidence about.


What does the US ban have to do with HarmonyOS?

Google locked Huawei devices out of Android updates because of the US-imposed ban. The Commerce Department granted Huawei a three-month general license in late May to update existing devices. In the weeks that followed, Huawei apparently had the name "Hongmeng" trademarked in China and Peru, suggesting that it was preparing for a move away from Android. 


On Aug. 9, Trump said the US won't do business with China, but the White House reportedly later said the president was referring to a separate ban on federal agencies purchasing telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from the company.  Earlier Friday, reports emerged that trade tensions prompted the US to delay granting licenses for companies to restart sales to Huawei. 


What are the technical specs for HarmonyOS?

In a Friday release, Huawei said HarmonyOS will include four distinct technical features:


--Machine learning was used to increase how fast the operating system itself runs, and app speeds will get a bump of up to 25.7%. 


--The operating system will be usable across different devices. That implies phones, tablets, wearables, TVs, computers and more. 


--A new microkernal design and Trusted Execution Environment will beef up security.


--The OS will come with a new tool for developers to build compatible apps that'll be able to work cross-device.


What do we know about Huawei's app store?

In June the company reportedly invited Google Play Store developers to publish apps in its AppGallery. An anonymous developer published an email Huawei apparently sent that offered support in the transition and free access to the Huawei Developer portal.




Huawei said app speeds will increase by up to 25.7%.

  When will we see the first HarmonyOS devices?

HarmonyOS will first come to smart TVs and other "smart screen" devices, later in 2019. In the coming years, it'll migrate to car infotainment systems, wearables and more.


A report this week said the first HarmonyOS-powered phone will be released this year. It'll apparently power a 2,000-yuan (around $290) budget device, while flagship series like the Mate and Pro will stick with Android. A previous report said HarmonyOS's international launch would come in 2020.


Huawei also offered details about the upcoming updates to EMUI 10, its modified version of Android (formerly known as Emotion UI), which it's sticking with for now.


The upcoming Mate 30 phone will ship with the software and emphasize cross-device compatibility. EMUI 10 phone users will be able to answer calls via smart TV integration, and beam their phone screen onto a laptop display. The phones are also built to integrate with drones and cars. 


"With software, we are combining the laptop and the phone into a new device," said Huawei software head Wang Chenglu.


How hard is it to launch a new platform?

It's insanely difficult to launch a new operating system platform from scratch and rally developers behind it. Developers flock to big user bases, and right now that's Apple's iOS and Google's Android. 

Other big-name players have made the attempt. Microsoft tried in vain to make Windows Phone a thing, but it eventually pulled the plug on the platform. Samsung has pushed Tizen for years, but it's largely relegated to its smartwatch. 

Even BlackBerry, with an established base of smartphone users, tried and failed to launch a modern, app-based operating system. It eventually abandoned it for Android.


Can Huawei expect things to be different?

Huawei is a massive player with the No. 2 market share in smartphones, so it would be unwise to completely dismiss HarmonyOS. 


Over the last few years, whole platforms and systems have sprung up in China thanks to its huge customer base, so even if Harmony fails to catch on overseas, there could be enough Chinese users to drive its development. 


It still faces an uphill battle though.

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coders slam huawei's ark compiler



A scam. A publicity stunt. Premature. These are just a few of the things Chinese developers are saying about the release of Huawei’s supposed secret weapon: The Ark Compiler.

Developers are even claiming the program feels incomplete. The reception has been so bad that one programmer told Abacus that he wondered whether it was released just for publicity.

“Maybe they're doing it to help in the PR and trade war, adding leverage against the US,” said Max Zhou, co-founder of app-enhancement company MetaApp and former head of engineering at Mobike.

The Ark Compiler is a key component of Huawei’s new operating system, HarmonyOS. The tool is meant to allow developers to quickly port their Android apps to the new OS, ideally helping to quickly bridge the gap of app availability. It is also said to be able to improve the efficiency of Android apps, making them as smooth as apps on iOS.

As of right now, though, developers say the promises are too good to be true.

“The ad says it’s a Michelin 3-star. But when it’s served, it turns out to be a pack of Tingyi cup noodles and it doesn’t even come with hot water. Do you think it has met expectations?” one programmer wrote on Q&A site Zhihu under the question “Did the open source code of the Ark Compiler meet everyone’s expectations?

Huawei declined to comment for this article, but the company has said before that the Ark Compiler would be rolled out in phases, with the source code for the complete toolchain not being available until 2020.

The company chose to release the framework source code for the Ark Compiler on August 31, but what developers found wasn’t what they expected. Those who tried it out piled on with angry comments. On that same Zhihu thread, the majority of the more than 150 commenters harshly criticized Huawei.

“Not only can’t the Ark Compiler compile all the standard benchmark samples, it can’t even compile ITS OWN demo sample!” Xing Yin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, wrote in a widely upvoted comment.

We weren’t able to verify Yin’s work. At least one person commenting on Zhihu claimed to have compiled the demo, but others suggested it required the use of a third-party tool.

“Its demo can't be run because they didn't release the necessary runtime,” Yin told Abacus. “Some people on Zhihu said it can compile to assembly language, but it can't go any further than that. It can't be compiled into an executable file.”

For the non-coders out there, a compiler is what operating systems use to parse the source code of a program. It’s a special program that translates human programming language into the machine language that instructs your computer or phone to perform specific tasks on the hardware level.

As a result of this process, Android apps tend to be slower compared with apps on Apple’s iOS. Android’s compilation process has traditionally been more complicated, and the apps are mostly coded in the Java programming language. This is better for cross-platform compatibility, but it sacrifices efficient compilation.

You wouldn't think just bringing in a different compiler for the same source code would result in significantly better results, but Huawei says it does. According to the company’s claims, the Ark Compiler improves the smoothness of third-party applications by 60%.

Huawei said the Ark Compiler took 10 years to develop, but all that time incubating has not translated into user adoration.

“Huawei does not represent the peak of Chinese technology,” author He Zhiyuan wrote on Zhihu.

He added, “We developers diss Huawei not because we don’t love our country or we want to sabotage our country or we are US imperialist spies… But just tossing out a product that’s not even half-finished is really insincere.”

Huawei has recently been caught in the crosshairs of rising tensions between the US and China. Many in China have rallied around the Shenzhen-based tech giant as a show of support for their country.

In May, the US put the company on an entity list that bars US-based companies from selling tech to Huawei without authorization. When Google said it would comply with the ban and not license its apps and services like Google Maps and YouTube to Huawei for future handsets, it was a potentially crippling blow to the company’s international smartphone ambitions.

That’s why the Ark Compiler and its ability to port Android apps is seen as such an important component of HarmonyOS.

Although Huawei has said that it’s not ready to move away from Android just yet, it has an ambitious vision for HarmonyOS. The company said the OS will support a range of products, including smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, automobiles and smart wear.

Zhou, from MetaApp, was very excited by the prospect of the Ark Compiler before he got his hands on it. Now he considers it a publicity stunt, especially given how much Huawei emphasized that the Ark Compiler would be open source.

“We don’t need it to be open source,” he said, adding that it’s more important that it be “easy to use and compatible. They were doing it for publicity only -- not really wishing for community contributions.”

Zhou also questioned why having an open source compiler would be useful at all.

“Nobody wants to change their compiler code in the first place,” he said. “It’s a compiler for god’s sake.”


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