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Huawei bets big on Harmony

Huawei Technologies Co has made a major breakthrough with the successful launch of its Harmony operating system for smartphones, but still has a long way to go before it can successfully build a strong software ecosystem, experts said.

Their comments came after the Chinese tech giant launched its latest operating system Harmony-OS 2 on Wednesday night for smartphones, tablets and smartwatches.

Wang Baohua, a computer expert at the department of information and computational science at the school of mathematics and statistics at Shenzhen University, said Google's Android and Apple Inc's iOS system are the two most widely-used smartphone systems in China.

HarmonyOS is testament to Huawei's technological prowess and will help it to retain customers to some extent, particularly at a time when it cannot guarantee enough smartphone shipments to attract new consumers due to restrictions by some overseas governments, Wang said.

Huawei has unveiled the name list of the first batch of its existing smartphones and indicated a timeline for bringing other models under the new operating system by the first half of next year.

The move marks a crucial step for Huawei, which had prepared for its transition from Google's Android operating system to HarmonyOS for a long time after Washington restricted its access to Google software and services in 2019.

Huawei said earlier that it expects the number of devices equipped with HarmonyOS to reach 300 million by the end of this year, including more than 200 million for Huawei devices.

Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, said HarmonyOS is by no means a substitute for Android or iOS. Instead it is designed to power the internet of things. The IoT-compatible HarmonyOS is designed to quickly connect different devices from different brands and enable them to "cooperate" with each other, said Yu.

Zhao Xiaogang, an associate professor with the School of Computer Science at Wuhan University, called HarmonyOS a "mega-terminal" that enables more streamlined and efficient cross-device connectivity.

"HarmonyOS greatly enhances the interactive speed between devices and improves the efficiency of their computing power, thus providing customers with a more optimized cross-device user experience," said Zhao.

HarmonyOS was first unveiled in August 2019, and it had already been used in smart TVs, as well as third-party companies' home appliances such as ovens and smoke exhaust ventilators before Wednesday's online launch.

Experts said that it will take time and efforts for Huawei to build a vibrant ecosystem of software and hardware partners. That is the key for the operating system to survive in the highly competitive digital world, they added.

Wang Chenglu, president of the software department at Huawei's consumer business group, said the short-term market share goal for HarmonyOS's ecosystem is 16 percent.

"Sixteen percent is a threshold for an operating system's ecosystem to develop prosperously. It is a threshold that Huawei must pass," Wang said.

Yin Dong, a Beijing-based software developer who has been using tools from HarmonyOS to develop mobile applications for five months, said he is very optimistic about the operating system's future.

"It is very convenient to develop applications for cross-device experience based on HarmonyOS, giving it an upper hand over Android which is designed only for smartphones,"Yin said.

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