When Huawei was subjected to a witch hunt by the US government for allegedly aiding the Chinese government in its efforts to spy on the country, and as a pivotal player to potentially economically sabotage the country, an executive order was launched against the China-based tech giant that effectively forced U.S. tech companies to sever ties with Huawei.
And to comply with this, Google revoked Huawei’s license to use its open-source operating system, Android.
The ban from Google has brought Huawei’s future into limbo; making it uncertain for users, especially concerning security updates for their Huawei and Honor phones —or the general idea whether their devices will still be able to run altogether. Following the announcement, Huawei assured its users that all phones that were sold ahead of the banning and those that are already in stock will continue receiving updates from Android.
But now that more and more companies and U.S. tech giants are starting to enforce the ban against Huawei, what is left for Huawei to do to continue competing in the competitive global market of smartphones? What alternatives does it have in place of Android?
Does it still stand a chance?
Hongmeng, Huawei’s own operating system is on the move
One of the most obvious choice for Huawei to continue their business in the smartphone arena is to develop its operating system. And reports revealed that it has been doing so — as the Beijing company has already foreseen circumstances like a Google/Android ban.
Following the announcement of Google that it will be revoking Huawei’s Android license, rumors about a Huawei-exclusive operating system has been developed by the company since 2012. They called it Hongmeng.
The company has been testing the new OS on selected devices under closer door and closed environment. The source also said that the testing was accelerated for the new operating system to be ready for situations just like this.
One massive problem with this option, however, is that since it is a new operating system, it may be a challenge for Huawei to create an applications environment as robust as that of Android. But Huawei also has a solution to this problem: to release its own App Gallery.
A report from Bloomberg has said that the Chinese phone maker has been sweet-talking developers and networks to get on board. The story says that Huawei is offering considerable amounts to developers and systems to install their app store in new phones. While it is still unclear if the new app marketplace will be for all new phones or if it will be exclusive to its models only, this seems like a sound solution for Huawei’s predicament.
Even if Huawei can convince developers to develop apps for its OS and app gallery, another challenge is to make sure that porting apps on its OS becomes sustainable for developers to update. To survive this, Huawei should be able to sell enough phones and create enough demands for the developers to earn from it and prevent them from abandoning the platform altogether.
Or they can use Sailfish OS Fork
Another viable OS alternative for Huawei instead of the Android operating system fiasco is tapping into the Linux-based open-source operating system Sailfish OS Fork. Some reliable reports suggest that Huawei might use an existing smartphone OS named as Sailfish OS on its smartphones and tablets. Sailfish OS can be used as a base to develop the new Aurora OS for international Huawei smartphones.
And Huawei is seriously considering this OS as an Android alternative. Huawei CEO Guo Ping discussed the possibility of using Sailfish OS on Huawei devices with Konstantin Noskov, the minister of digital development, communications, and mass media of Russia.
One primary advantage of using Sailfish OS Fork over Huawei developing its OS is that this Linux-based operating system is also compatible with most Android apps. This means that Huawei does not need to create an entirely new app ecosystem for users to use their apps. At present, Sailfish OS is installed on only four devices, namely Sony Xperia X, XA2, XA2 Plus, and XA2 Ultra.
And since privacy is one of the most talked about issue in the tech world today, another advantage of the Sailfish OS Fork is precisely that. The OS does not store nor use user data against their consent and also, Sailfish OS only stores data to run its services and not sold to third-party services.
Android can find a way to work with Huawei again
The thing about Android OS that makes it a complicated venture when it comes to Huawei is that, although the operating system is open-source — meaning anyone can use it freely for their project — the source code is still licensed by Google, an American company that is required to comply with the Huawei ban EO. But reports suggest that Google is against this decision and is working on finding ways to continue working with Huawei amidst the controversial legislation. For one, Google has urged the US government to lift the ban against the Chinese smartphone manufacturer — citing security threats can be more viable with the policy.
In the short term, the company has secured a temporary license to continue to supply software updates to existing phones. The permit allows Huawei to take action “necessary to provide service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing Huawei handsets that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019.” The license will also allow Huawei to maintain its existing network equipment, and to receive security vulnerability disclosures. Reports suggest that Android is working to extend this license.
With these moves from Google and Android, it is possible that companies can find a workaround that would allow them to work with Huawei in the future indefinitely; but this remains uncertain.