What you need to know

  • Huawei's homegrown HarmonyOS was launched at the company's developer conference today.
  • HarmonyOS is a microkernel-based, distributed operating system that has been designed for use in a range of smart devices.
  • Huawei says the first smart screen products running HarmonyOS 1.0 will debut later this year.

Just as expected, Huawei today launched its first homegrown operating system at the Huawei Developer Conference. The operating system, which has been dubbed HarmonyOS, has been designed for a wide range of smart devices, including smartwatches, smart screens, in-vehicle systems, smart speakers, and more.

Unlike Android and iOS, HarmonyOS is a microkernel-based, distributed operating system that is claimed to have impressive cross-platform capabilities. Here's how Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group, explained the company's goals with new OS:

We're entering a day and age where people expect a holistic intelligent experience across all devices and scenarios. To support this, we felt it was important to have an operating system with cross-platform capabilities. We needed an OS that supports all scenarios, that can be used across a broad range of devices and platforms, and that can meet consumer demand for low latency and strong security.

Huawei says HarmonyOS is the first-ever device OS that can provide a seamless experience across different devices, all thanks to the distributed architecture and distributed virtual bus technology. The operating system also has a Deterministic Latency Engine for better allocation of system resources and a high-performance Intel Process Communication (IPC). The microkernel, if Huawei is to be believed, allows for up to five times more efficient IPC performance compared to existing systems.

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The microkernel design also allows HarmonyOS to have lower latency as well as better security. It is, in fact, the very first operating system to have formal verification in device TEE (Trusted Execution Environment), which helps greatly with improving security. The fact that the microkernel has just one-thousandth the amount of code compared to the Linux Kernel means the chances of an attack is reduced significantly.

While Huawei's press release makes no mention of "smartphones", Richard Yu has admitted that the company may choose to use HarmonyOS in its phones in case it loses access to Google's Android operating system. The first smart screen products running on HarmonyOS 1.0 will arrive later this year. In the future, the OS is slated to be optimized for use in other smart devices such as wearables, HUAWEI Vision, and head units for cars.

To encourage developers, Huawei will be releasing HarmonyOS as an open-source platform globally. However, the initial focus will be to create a strong app ecosystem in the Chinese market. Once it achieves that goal, it will starting focusing on building a global ecosystem for the OS.

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