Huawei needs its own HarmonyOS operating system more than ever. The firm wants to believe that it can make it as powerful an ecosystem as Android and iOS. But experts agree that this will be extremely difficult outside of China.
For months, Huawei had hoped for a quick end to the trade war between China and the United States. The founder of the group Ren Zhengfei repeated to anyone who would hear him his intention to return to the small papers of Google and continue to build on Android to support the growth of its smartphone division.
Gold the relentlessness of the White House, which now seems to be doing everything it can to sink a company that it perceives as a threat for its interests forces Huawei to completely change its discourse. The United States has just imposed new sanctions designed to prevent it from outsourcing the production of its Kirin chips to smelters such as TSMC.
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Huawei, cornered by sanctions, has no choice but to push its ecosystem
These sanctions are just the latest in a long soap opera that began with Huawei’s placement on a list of Entities – in reality a blacklist of companies. Firms wishing to continue their business relationship must apply to the U.S. Department of Commerce for a license. No guarantee of getting it.
However, one of the immediate consequences was the withdrawal of the Android license, which until then allowed Huawei to pre-install the indispensable suite of Google applications (Play Store, Google Maps, etc.) on its smartphones. Nevertheless, the more the conflict progresses, the clearer it is that Huawei must offer its own alternatives to all that is American. Notably its own Operating System Harmony OS.
It’s a matter of survival, and it’s in this context that Eric Tan, one of Huawei’s vice presidents of consumer cloud services, told CNBC on Tuesday: « Huawei is in a position to deliver an ecosystem that rivals the ecosystems of Google and Apple« . He added: “We are confident that we are becoming one of the main ecosystems in the market.”
Huawei can easily succeed in China, abroad it’s a different story
But is it only achievable? To support his speech, Eric Tan explains that at the end of March, Huawei had managed to convince 1.4 million developers to carry their application (up 115% compared to the end of 2019). And in fact, it is likely that Huawei will achieve its goal… China. The absence of Google apps on smartphones is already the norm anyway.
Abroad, on the other hand, it may be a different story. Several experts, including an IDC official, believe that American technologies are too entrenched in third countries: “It won’t be easy for Huawei to build a first-class app bookstore outside of China, as many of them need Google services for things like DRM, location, payments and notifications.”
He also believes that developers cannot devote themselves to all projects and that there must already be a sufficient mass of users in a given geographical area to really succeed in attracting them. For now, the Huawei alternative from the Play Store, called AppGallery, has mostly Chinese apps, and many popular apps like Facebook or Instagram are still missing.
Neil Shah of Counterpoint Research adds: “Outside of China, it will be a long-term struggle because most of the leading applications come from high-ranking US developers – Netflix, Facebook apps (Instagram, WhatsApp), Google apps, etc. – which obviously can no longer collaborate with Huawei.”
And you, do you think Huawei can achieve its goal of competing with the Google and Apple ecosystems, including internationally? Share your thoughts in the comments.