A few months back, Huawei was thrown a curveball when the U.S. government forced leading American tech companies to stop trade or business with Chinese companies, an extension of the U.S.-China trade ban. At the time of the ban, Huawei assured its device users that they had been working on their own OS to replace the Android counterpart while they were in talks with Google to discuss the future of using its operating system. At the Huawei Developer Conference in Dongguan, China, the company made its new OS officially in the form of HarmonyOS, a microkernel-based, distributed OS to deliver a cohesive user experience across various devices.
According to Huawei CEO of Consumer Business Group Richard Yu, HarmonyOS has been in the works since 2017. The OS was initially developed for smart display products, such as the upcoming Huawei Vision to be released later this year. Speaking at the conference, Yu made the following statement:
“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 improved 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.”
HarmonyOS is a lightweight operating system with powerful functionality, which will be used for smartwatches, smart screens, in-car system and smart speakers released by Huawei in the coming months. Huawei has developed the OS in order to provide seamless integration between its hardware to create a secure and reliable runtime environment while delivering an intelligent experience across all devices. HarmonyOS was distinguished by four technical features it uses to provide the ultimate performance to its users.
Built on Four Technical Features
The four features include being seamless, smooth, secure and unified. The use of a distributed architecture and distributed virtual bus technology, HarmonyOS offers a shared communication platform for seamless experiences across all devices. Applications on the OS can run across different devices while still delivering the same experience. App developers wouldn’t need to deal with this underlying integration themselves, with the service logic catered for by the OS.
HarmonyOS is built upon a Deterministic Latency Engine and high-performance Inter-Process Communication (IPC) to deliver a smooth experience. The OS sets tasks execution priorities and time limits for scheduling in advance. The device resources will be distributed according to higher prioritisation, which reduces the response latency by around 25%. The implemented microkernel is capable of improving the IPC performance by up to five times more efficient than existing by deploying system resources using real-time analysis and forecasting. As opposed to Android’s Linux-based kernel which uses a fair scheduling mechanism, HarmonyOS creates a smooth experience for its users.
The microkernel offers another enhanced feature for HarmonyOS, advanced security and low latency. The microkernel was designed to simplify other kernel functions, to implement many system services in user mode outside the kernel. This adds mutual security protection by providing only the most basic services like thread scheduling and IPC. Tasks from the microkernel use formal verification methods for added security and trustworthiness. This is built from the ground up in a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), making HarmonyOS the first OS to deploy formal verification of TEE.
In order to create a unified experience, HarmonyOS uses a multi-device IDE to allow apps to be developed once and deployed across numerous devices. The multi-device IDE provides a multi-language unified compilation and a distributed architecture kit. The OS itself automatically adapts to the various screen sizes, layouts controls and interactions. The IDE also provides support for both drag-and-drop controls and preview-oriented visual programming, allowing developers to efficiently build apps to run on multiple devices.
One of the key drivers for a successful operating system is its ecosystem, from how developers create apps to the distribution thereof to its users. Without a large enough ecosystem, an OS can easily fail to launch, as has been the case across other operating systems in recent years. HarmonyOS will be introduced across its smart devices in stages as it rolls out over the next three years, including wearables, Huawei Vision and the likes. As a means to encourage adoption and developer buy-in, HarmonyOS will be released as an open-source platform globally, with Huawei to establish an open-source foundation and developer community to support its growth. Huawei aims to enable developers to win over users with less investment and rapidly innovate services.
While HarmonyOS will first be adapted for smart screen products to launch later this year, it’s suspected that the ongoing trade war between China and the US could force Huawei to extend the OS to its smartphones. Huawei steered clear of making any mention of using the OS on smartphones, in an attempt to avoid upsetting its current OS partner, Google.
With HarmonyOS, Huawei aims to bring holistic intelligent experience to empower future services such as 5G, AI, and IoT, which will see explosive growth.