Opening HarmonyOS, an ecological headache

On June 2, Huawei officially launched HarmonyOS, along with a series of products preloaded with Harmony, including new versions of the Mate 40 and Mate X2 smartphones, the WATCH 3 smartwatch, and the MatePad Pro tablet, as well as announcing more than 100 Huawei products that will be able to upgrade to Harmony.

Since Huawei announced the launch of Honmong at its developer conference in 2019, it has been a source of great controversy. Initially, many ridiculed it as a PPT system due to its delayed appearance. When the code of Hongmeng was released, some people found that it was full of Android traces and thought it was just a skinned Android; soon after, Huawei proved that Hongmeng was definitely not a skinned Android by open-sourcing Hongmeng 2.0.

With Hongmeng no longer a system that exists only in PPT, the public’s focus has fallen on the future development of Hongmeng. After all, Palm’s webOS, Nokia’s MeeGo, Microsoft’s Windows Phone and other cell phone operating systems are all no less good than Android, but they are all decimated by Android.

No matter how powerful the system is, can it really succeed under the strong Android?

It doesn’t matter

First of all, let’s say the truth: Hongmeng system is really not as important as the public think.

Although Huawei’s share in the European market dropped significantly after Huawei’s cell phones could not continue to use Android normally due to restrictions. Therefore, many people shouted “software and system can not be stuck”, “we must have our own operating system”. However, many people have overlooked a very important issue: since Android is an open source operating system, Huawei’s phones can continue to use the open source version of Android AOSP so far.

What Huawei can’t continue to use is not the Android operating system, but Google’s cell phone ecology: Google Mobile System, GMS.

GMS is a set of applications and cloud services, including what is commonly known as the “Google Family Bucket” of various Google services, such as the Play Store, Search, Gmail, Maps, and other applications, as well as many system-level API interfaces The GMS is a service that includes a number of system-level API interfaces, as well as various service frameworks. Since GMS is embedded in Android OS, Android system interfaces also use Google’s services by default, so developers often have various Google services embedded in their applications.

Opening HarmonyOS, an ecological headache

Huawei Mate 30 Pro flashes when executing Uber because there is no GMS. Image source: cnet.

In overseas markets that rely heavily on Google’s ecosystem, these phones without GMS are not only unable to download apps via Google Play, or back up via Google Drive cloud, but even basic system functions such as push notifications and message sync cannot function properly due to the lack of access to Google servers. Even the basic functions of the system, such as push notification and message synchronization, cannot function properly because they cannot access Google servers. In addition, many third-party applications that use Google’s interface may also fail to work because they cannot access GMS (above).

In short, Huawei phones without GMS will not play well outside of China. That’s why Odin previously mentioned in his article “Huawei without Google, something to do, something not to do? Huawei has launched its own mobile ecosystem, Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), to overcome the lack of GMS.

In other words, what actually stuck Huawei was not the OS itself, but the ecology behind the OS.

The ecological environment is what determines the future of Huawei

As we all know, it is not easy to develop an operating system, but the public tends to overestimate the difficulty of developing an operating system. Due to the rapid development of open source software in recent years, many cell phone companies tend to develop excellent operating systems with the help of open source Linux kernel. Many good operating systems, such as Palm’s webOS, Nokia’s MeeGo, and even Android, also have their origins in Linux.

Therefore, although it is not easy to develop an operating system, if you want to do it, you will never fail to do it.

Palm’s webOS, Nokia’s MeeGo, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone have been widely praised by the technology industry for their system performance and advanced technology. Some developers even feel that these systems are more technologically advanced than Android. However, despite this, these excellent operating systems are still beaten by Android.

Why did these systems with excellent technology fail to survive in the end? The key is that Android has a huge first-mover advantage. Since the number of Android devices shipped is much higher than other systems, the market share of other systems is getting lower and lower, and it is difficult to attract professional developers who are keen on profit to develop killer software for these operating systems.

As you can see, the real factor that determines the future development of operating systems is definitely not the technology, but the application ecology of the operating system.

For Chinese cell phone manufacturers, the ecology of cell phone systems is especially important. Zhao Ming of Glory has publicly stated that there are very few Chinese cell phone companies with a hardware net profit margin of 5%. These cell phone companies can not make money on the phone, the vast majority can only make money through the software ecology, which is the famous Xiaomi model: low-cost cell phones to quickly seize the market, to seize the mobile Internet portal, and then through the software and service profit business model.

Opening HarmonyOS, an ecological headache

Huawei Hongmeng device, and the difference between the previous Android devices (schematic simplified)

Similarly, the key to Huawei’s success is not how strong Huawei’s technology is, nor how many people are using it, but how many developers are willing to develop native applications for it. Therefore, although Huawei Hongmeng is regarded as an independent operating system, but in fact it is not completely free from the shackles of Google, still need to be fully compatible with the Android mobile applications (above right). That’s why Hongmeng has been questioned as a “skinned Android” before.

Do we really need our own OS? Let’s forget about it.

What we lack is not an independent operating system, but an independent ecosystem.

A good opportunity to build our own ecosystem?

Over the years, many cell phone companies have developed various branches of Android to try to get rid of Google’s control. The key to this is that these offshoots must be backward compatible with all Android applications, but at the same time, they can build their own ecosystem to some extent by bringing in private products (such as their own app store). Amazon, for example, has launched Android-based FireOS phones and tablets that are also perfectly compatible with Android apps.

This approach seems to be a fantasy, but in fact, “Android fragmentation” has been the biggest problem for Google.

In 2014, Google was accused of avoiding further fragmentation of Android, so it built new features of the operating system in the cloud GMS, and then implemented these new features by upgrading the system interface, which once stopped the fragmentation within Android. However, since the rapid rise of Chinese cell phone manufacturers, the demand for GMS has been greatly reduced as most Chinese users do not rely on Google’s ecosystem, and this has weakened Google’s control over the Android ecosystem.

As a result, Forbes has considered the Chinese market as Google’s “Giant black hole”.

Opening HarmonyOS, an ecological headache

Image source: Counterpoint.

China’s cell phone market has been growing for years and is already quite strong. At the beginning of 2019, just by adding up the shares of the four domestic cell phone giants “China, Mi, O and V”, they will already account for more than 40% of global cell phone shipments (above). If other manufacturers like Meizu, ZTE and others are reduced to Others are also counted, the shipments of Chinese cell phone brands are estimated to account for more than half of the world.

If Huawei can take the lead to promote these manufacturers, together with the adoption of Android applications compatible with the Hong Meng system, developers can never completely ignore the huge market in China, naturally willing to support the Hong Meng system, or for Hong Meng deep optimization, after all, developers write code is also to make money. At this time, Hong Meng can squeeze out its own foothold behind the vast application ecosystem of Android.

However, the problem Hongmeng has to face is still quite complicated.

Although Huawei’s phone holdings are still considerable, their shipments will continue to decline due to the various production constraints they face, which will also cause Huawei’s phone holdings to plummet and affect their ecological development. Therefore, it is impossible for Huawei to promote the Hongmeng system on its own, and it must join forces with other cell phone companies in order to prompt developers to support Hongmeng.

Prisoner’s dilemma of the cell phone industry

In fact, other phone manufacturers are not unaware of the power of unity, especially Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo, which have joined forces on several occasions to promote their own ecosystem. For example, as Odin mentioned earlier, Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo formed an alliance in early 2019 for a near-field wireless communication standard similar to Apple’s AirDrop, and then they saw Huawei’s restrictions and had a sense of crisis, which led them to join forces to launch the GDSA alliance, which is seen as a challenge to Google’s leadership.

But the problem is: these cell phone companies often exclude Huawei when they cooperate.

In fact, Huawei’s rapid growth in recent years has scared off its friends. Huawei has its own hardware, also has its own operating system, in the hardware and software advantages, these years, Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo share eaten a lot. If the future Hong Meng for Huawei cell phones to carry out in-depth optimization, then other cell phone manufacturers should be how to compete with Huawei?

Although according to sources, Ren Zhengfei has said that Huawei will focus on software and operating systems, but whether these friends are willing to hand over the ecology of this lifeblood to the original rival Huawei, or to the hands of Google, which still seems to be relatively neutral, is still difficult to predict.

But the problem is not just because Huawei has a competitive relationship with other vendors.

Opening HarmonyOS, an ecological headache

Collaboration between different Huawei devices by Hongmeng. Image credit: Huawei.

Although Hongmeng is also an open source OS, it has a Huawei HMS ecosystem inside, just like Android, and a Huawei IoT ecosystem based on distributed computing outside. Xiaomi, OPPO, and vivo have their own app stores and IoT ecosystems; if they use HongMeng, how will the benefits be distributed in the HongMeng ecosystem? How will the original home ecology be integrated with HongMeng?

Odin has previously mentioned that Huawei has repeatedly stated that it does not do cell phone business, but Huawei has become the world’s second largest cell phone manufacturer; Huawei has also repeatedly stated that it does not do TV, but it has launched smart screen, which has caused various trolls in the industry. Recently Huawei announced that it does not make cars, but the “validity of three years” statement, also let many car manufacturers heart is very unsure.

In other words, the cell phone manufacturers do not want to be Google card neck; also know that only through cooperation, in order to establish a healthy independent ecology. But they have been trapped in a prisoner’s dilemma, unable to cooperate with each other.

So far, the only third-party cell phone manufacturer that is definitely willing to adopt the Hongmeng system is Meizu, and the only one that will definitely not adopt it is ZTE. Xiaomi, OPPO, and Vivo have not taken a position so far, but OPPO’s PR has indicated in the WeChat group that it does not use Hongmeng, and has stirred up all kinds of controversy.

This also reflects the other cell phone manufacturers on whether to try Hong Meng, still in between.

Hongmeng’s main battlefield will not be on top of cell phones

Opening HarmonyOS, an ecological headache

Hongmeng’s partners in the smart home. Photo credit: Huawei.

Because of this, in fact, most of the time in this Huawei’s Hongmeng launch was spent promoting its IoT ecology; most of their current partners also belong to the IoT and smart home sector (above).

The reason for this is that, first of all, Huawei and the manufacturers of smart home appliances do not have a direct competitive relationship like cell phone manufacturers. Secondly, the IoT field has just started, and manufacturers do not rely on the established ecosystem as cell phones do, so there is more room for trial and error. For Huawei, they also want to use a powerful distributed system to open up the IoT field, forcing other vendors to follow suit and expand Hongmeng’s development space.

After all, many people have forgotten what Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei, said.

Hongmeng system was created, itself is not for cell phones to use, but to do the Internet of things to use Hongmeng.

Despite this, the original Huawei’s IoT system has been using the “1 + 8 + N” structure: 1 refers to the cell phone, 8 including PC, tablet, TV, audio, glasses, watch, car, headset eight business, and N includes mobile office, smart home, sports and health, audio and video entertainment and intelligent travel four segments.

But when Huawei lost the “1” cell phone, how will the “8 + N” behind it? And how should Hongmeng live with itself?

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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