Huawei has revealed that if necessary, it will be ready to roll out its own operating system (OS) which can be used an an alternative to Google’s Android OS that is currently on almost all of the world’s Huawei devices. The move comes after the White House ordered a blanket ban (better referred to as an embargo) against Huawei entering the US market or doing business with US based companies. This resulted in Google cutting its software cooperation ties with the Chinese tech giant whilst American chip makers Qualcomm and Intel also severed links.
There is little doubt that Huawei’s in-house microchips and processors are of an extremely high quality. The bigger question is one of overcoming the use of the Android operating system and Google designed apps without direct support from the software developer.
Although Android is an open source operating system, questions remain as to how effectively Huawei could continue to use a system whose support channels will be cut off by Google in three months time.
Now however, Huawei has expressed its confidence in the ability to natively run Android apps on its in-house operating system that may be released to the public as early as the last quarter of 2019. According to some reports, the Huawei OS will even be able to optimise Android apps which would theoretically allow some of them to run in a smoother fashion than on certain Android devices.
All of these claims are very big and will need to be independently field tested before any conclusions can be drawn. That being said, if indeed the Huawei OS is able to natively run Android apps in a flawless or near flawless fashion, it would represent the biggest leap forward in the internationalisation of the 4th industrial revolution.
As the 4th industrial revolution is one in which AI, automation and a fully digital economic space will replace traditional forms of production and consumption, it has largely been taken for granted that the US will remain the leader in terms of software development. This has been the case even as China has jetted ahead in terms of many hardware applications including that used to build and maintain 5G networks.
But if a non-US company was able to roll out a user friendly and universally accessible operating system to rival Android, Windows and Apple, it would mean that China could call itself a major software innovator. As Huawei is the world’s second largest seller of smartphone devices in spite of its products already being absent from the US retail market, Huawei’s OS will quickly become widespread among ordinary people throughout the world after it is released for public use.
Whilst cooperation between Chinese and US companies is ultimately the best solution for global connectivity and human progress, if Washington is to remain insistent on a hostile position against China, Chinese companies will press ahead as they are currently doing.
If China’s past technological successes are anything to go by, a future Huawei OS may well be able to break the chain of unilateral global dependence on US software giants. This itself would represent a major accomplishment in decentralising global software supply chains.