Huawei Has Made Its Own Smartphone and PC OSes … Just in Case

Posted on March 14, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android, Windows 10 with 47 Comments

Huawei admitted this week that it has developed its own smartphone and PC operating systems as an emergency measure. The telecommunications giant is worried that relations with the U.S. will degrade so badly that it might be forced to stop using Android and Windows.

“We have prepared our own operating systems, if it turns out we can no longer use these systems, we will be ready and have our plan B,” Huawei mobile chief Richard Yu Chengdong told Die Welt, a Germany-based newspaper. This admission follows earlier rumors that Huawei had been working on its own operating systems since at least early 2018.

“Huawei does have backup systems but only for use in extenuating circumstances,” Huawei confirmed to the South China Morning Post. “We don’t expect to use them, and to be honest, we don’t want to use them. We fully support our partners’ operating systems – we love using them and our customers love using them. Android and Windows will always remain our first choices.”

The impetus for this work was a previous U.S. ban on ZTE, another China-based telecommunications giant. And of course Huawei has been under fire by the U.S. government ever since: The firm finally sued the U.S. government for its baseless accusations and charges last week.

The big question here, of course, is compatibility. It’s not enough to create alternatives to both Android and Windows; those systems must run the applications and services that are designed for those systems too. But there’s no word in today’s report about how the firm expects to accomplish that.

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Comments (47)

47 responses to “Huawei Has Made Its Own Smartphone and PC OSes … Just in Case”

  1. provision l-3

    Just my 2c, but I think they should just go all in with them now. If you can make make your own and make it compelling why bother being dependent on someone else? Apple has shown that the approach works. You may not be king when it comes to marketshare but it clearly is a potentially profitable road and the more competition the better.

      • toukale

        In reply to pyore:

        Not a hurdle they can't jump over. Yes, it will be painful at first but it will work. This will obviously work in China, not so much outside of it. China already restrict most foreign companies anyway, I am thinking for that very reason. With everything heading towards webservices/web based api, it's no longer an impossible task.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to pyore:

        Google and Apple had zero app support when they came into the phone OS business and seemed to have managed just fine.

    • BrianEricFord

      In reply to provision l-3:

      There’s no way. Developers aren’t looking for a third mobile platform and the reason they don’t want to do it is because of that issue AND it’s hard to make a good OS. I suspect their in-house OS sucks.

      If they were to have to abandon Android and Windows for legal reasons, why wouldn’t developers for the apps that matter be an issue as well?

      • skane2600

        In reply to BrianEricFord:

        While developing a new OS isn't trivial, it's a lot easier to do today than it was at the time Windows or even Linux was developed.

        If it caught on in China it would present a big opportunity for developers to get their foot in the door early. When apps are scarce but interest is high more modest apps will be adopted. This is what happened in the early days of DVDs when people wanted movies to play but very few top titles were available. You bought what you could find.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to BrianEricFord:

        I totally agree that making a good OS is hard and there was a reason is said "make it compelling".

        Developers had Palm, Blackberry and Windows CE or whatever it was called back in the day and weren't looking for a new OS when iOS and Android came along. The long and the short of it is that if you can make something really compelling, not just good but compelling then customer will come to you and if they do so will developers.

    • A_lurker

      In reply to provision l-3:

      Not sure what the OS is under the hood and how well it will run apps written for other OSes. Apple has been making computers since the 1970s so they have developed their brand over 40 years and have always supplied an OS for their devices. There has been an Apple ecosystem for decades now. Going all in could be a recipe for corporate suicide, depending on the OS details. Most are only interested in an OS that does what they need and is readily available.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to A_lurker:

        Being compelling was a big part of my comment. iOS worked not because of Apple's brand or their because they had been around since the 70s. It worked because people looked at the iPhone and then looked at their phone and said "F*ck this".

    • Tony Barrett

      In reply to provision l-3:

      Mmm. Microsoft had a lot of success with that plan too didn't they - at least failing 5 times in the process. Samsung tried with Tizen too. Failed. Sailfish. Failed. Meego. Failed. FirefoxOS. Failed. Good luck if you have to use it Huawei.

      • spacein_vader

        In reply to ghostrider:

        FireOS is still going. Lets be honest it'll be a fork based on AOSP like Fire is anyway.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to ghostrider:

        Microsoft had some interesting ideas with Windows Mobile or whatever it was that they released post iPhone but it wasn't a compelling reason to move away from iOS or Android. What I am saying is that if they have something compelling like the iPhone was initially then they should go all in with it.

  2. HirishoSenju

    Does Paul have his own collection of Intel that has him convinced that the Chinese are not harming the USA? He calls it baseless. What's his proof?

  3. jimchamplin

    ReactOS. Open source implementation of Windows, runs relatively reliably, runs a great deal of software. If a corporate backer with a lot of money put considerable effort and resources into it, they could possibly close the gap.

    Edit: A downvote. For pointing out a possibility. Really?

    • christian.hvid

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I find that downvoting usually means "I don't agree with what you say, but I can't be bothered to explain why. Or even to identify myself."

    • MarkPow

      In reply to jimchamplin:

      I hate the down voting system, worse still, I think it puts some people of posting.

      • jimchamplin

        In reply to MarkPow:

        I can absolutely understand why you think that too. I mean, look at that. I state a fact. ReactOS exists, and explain what it is. Someone says "UURGH! NUUH!" and downvotes it like some kind of neanderthal. No reply, no thought, just a downvote because of... !?!?

        It makes one wonder what is the point of offering the information. It wasn't an opinion, it was a statement of fact. Is someone trying to say that they don't believe in the existence of ReactOS? I don't know


        • scj123

          In reply to jimchamplin:

          I am confused how you can say a product that looks and works like Windows 2000 that is based on Windows NT is a suitable replacement. Its also only released in an Alpha version.

          ALthough looking at the website I can see all the apps it runs, Photoshop CS2 V9 (Current version is V20) Winzip 11 (Current Version V23), Excel 2007 Viewer.

          Surely you do would better with a Linux distro than this?

  4. OldITPro2000

    I can't believe this would be anything other than them using AOSP and Linux.

  5. PeterC

    Huawei hired ex Nokia staff back in early 2016 for this project. It’s not a dev project in its infancy, it’s been ongoing behind th scenes for a good few years already.

    if you look you’ll find a lot of ex Nokia staff employed at Huawei.

    • hoomgar

      In reply to PeterC:

      I wasn't aware but if true, they stand to take some ground here.

      • PeterC

        In reply to Hoomgar:

        Yup it’s true. They had their EMUI working on Sailfish OS (meego) back then too as a test I recall. They aquired and established a sizeable dev centre in Finland ( ex Nokia) back then but I’m not sure if it’s still the dev hub.

  6. AnOldAmigaUser

    The issue isn't an OS, it is applications. Without applications that can handle your data in the format it is currently in, a computer is useless.

    • wright_is

      In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

      They already have their own app store on Android. I would guess that they will have a platform based on the open source version of Android and add their own "Google equivalent" layer on top to provide a fully functioning system.

      Likewise, the PC operating system is in all probability a Huawei branded Linux distro.

      So no real problems with apps, they just need to get the common apps in their own app store. For Chinese based apps (their largest customer base) that shouldn't be a problem. Getting all the apps that are popular in wider Asia will probably not be too hard either. It is only once they reach Europe and English speaking countries that use the major US platforms that there might be a problem, if the whole US economy is boycotting them. If it is just an Android ban, I could see a lot of companies also hosting on the Huawei platform.

  7. Xatom

    English translation. When Supreme Leader tells them to pull the global kill switch, they will have working computers nd phones while we try to light fires by rubbing 2 sticks together. Paul must be feeling proud. On the good side those Amiga programming skills might just have value.

  8. LocalPCGuy

    I think "developed our own OS" means they built a Linux distro and an Android fork. Starting from scratch would be extremely painful and risky with no apps to run. With Linux and and Android fork (like Amazons') they're have some breathing room.

  9. Bob2000

    No-where other than China would use said OS.

    Without Android or Windows Huawei outside China business is dead in the water.

  10. bart

    Huawei with the Chinese Market of 1.4B behind them could no doubt be serious competition for Google. I say, bring it on!

  11. Daekar

    Smart to have a contingency plan. It's unlikely that they'll ever need them, but it shows that they're considering all possibilities.

  12. christian.hvid

    This makes no sense at all. Literally anybody can have their own operating system - it's just a matter of downloading your favorite Linux distro, or Tizen, or AOSP, or whatever - and slapping your own name on it. But that doesn't mean you'll be able to sell a single device with your own OS; in fact, the opposite is much more likely. I'm tempted to call BS on this one.

    • wright_is

      In reply to christian.hvid:

      I suspect it is AOSP and Linux, but it doesn't matter either way. If the Chinese are banned from using Android, it means all the home grown manufacturers will have to swap to AOSP or other alternatives. That means that, probably, over 90% of what is sold will be AOSP, so it won't be a problem.

      It will only start to be a problem in smaller markets, like wider Asia or Europe, where Huawei are fairly strong, but if they have the apps, it won't be too much of a problem. I'd prefer to buy AOSP devices rather than Google infected devices, if the app store had the apps I need.

  13. bluvg

    Baseless? Numerous folks have posted examples of the evidence here numerous times. It's hardly baseless.

    • codymesh

      In reply to bluvg:

      yeah, evidence such as "they're connected to the chinese government" even though that applies to virtually every single big company in china, and "the founder used to be from the PLA" even though he is an actual engineer.

      • bluvg

        In reply to codymesh:

        Plenty of real examples in previous posts about Huawei.

        Which is too bad, though--the MateBooks are nearly perfect. They offer some of the prcious few 3:2 options out there, sadly.

      • prjman

        In reply to codymesh: He was an engineer - in the PLA. Both can be true.

      • Greg Green

        In reply to codymesh:

        “We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration – and it’s made a difference. Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.”

        -President Barack Obama, 1/24/2012

        The ITC found that low-cost, imported solar panels from China and other countries have hurt two domestic manufacturers, found that China had been engaged in “unfair trade practices,” dumping subsidized panels on the United States. -NPR

        Please continue to pretend it’s not happening.

  14. oneoone

    Thanks for sharing it's very informative.