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It is high time for Huawei to test the waters with HarmonyOS phones in China

(Image credit: Future)

The US has given Huawei its third 90-day support exemption from the export ban which will now end on February 17, 2020. But how long will it continue?

Huawei was originally added to the Entity List in May 2019.

From a hardware perspective, Huawei was not impacted much as it has almost become self-reliant but it had posed a serious threat to its American suppliers. Where Huawei has been impacted is with the absence of Goggle Mobile Services on its devices.

Huawei said in a statement that extending the Temporary General License won't have a substantial impact on Huawei's business either way.

“We have long held that the decision by the US Department of Commerce to add Huawei to the Entity List has caused more harm to the US than to Huawei. This has done significant economic harm to the American companies with which Huawei does business, and has already disrupted collaboration and undermined the mutual trust on which the global supply chain depends,” Huawei said.

It is high time that Huawei test the waters with HarmonyOS, mainly in China.

The US ban can return and besides targeting Huawei, it is also an eye-opener for other Chinese players to become self-reliant. How long can Chinese smartphone players be at the mercy of the US?

Bigger scope for scale in China

Launching smartphones in China with HarmonyOS has a bigger scope for scale as Google’s Mobile Services don’t exist in China and Huawei is using its own cloud services. 

Even though Huawei does not want to upset Google, they should look at proliferating the Chinese market with HarmonyOS smartphones in the next three to four years to build a robust OS in the Chinese market and then make sure it is mature enough to go on an offensive worldwide. They could also use their sub-brand Honor to launch products running on HarmonyOS and flood the market with different products running on Harmony OS.

It’s worth noting that Huawei is opening up its Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) to global developers, allowing them to quickly access the HMS ecosystem for resource sharing. HMS has been up and running in China for quite some time as Google Play is not available in China.

At the Huawei Developers Conference, Huawei said that it will open 14 types of HMS Core capabilities, 51 services, and 885 APIs to developers worldwide, in hopes of building an intelligent ecosystem for all scenarios. It has also committed a billion dollars to entice developers to its platform.

Getting app developers into the ecosystem

The world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer should launch at least one or two mid-range or entry-level smartphones running on HarmonyOS in China this year and get a feel of the market and for the app developers. Without launching a HarmonyOS phone, it is difficult to attract app developers into HarmonyOS. 

Where Huawei will face a greater challenge is by getting international app developers onboard HarmonyOS. But Huawei has the marketing muscle and money to offer incentives to app developers to get them into the ecosystem.

At the moment, Huawei has a market share of 15% in the Android space as of the third quarter of this year which is second in place after Samsung’s more than 25% market share.

With the US ban, the Chinese government and the people are also supporting Huawei phones and it has shown it in the third-quarter sales in China where other brands like Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi took a hit. 

HarmonyOS has the potential to become the ‘national OS’ of China in a bid to become less reliant on Google and Microsoft.

If the government pushed other big Chinese brands such as Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi to develop not only smartphones but also products such as TVs with HarmonyOS, it can scale massively and become more attractive for developers.

Google doesn't want another OS in market

Chinese brands hold more than 40% of the smartphone market share globally.

Moreover, there is also scope for Samsung and LG, whose market shares are less than 1% in China, to adopt HarmonyOS to grow its market share in China.

Huawei has designed HarmonyOS with great flexibility by basing it on a microkernel that’s scalable across different forms of devices. Huawei has also kept the platform open for competitors to build upon. That allows HarmonyOS to be extremely disruptive in the Chinese market.

Google knows the power of Huawei in China and will not want another OS to eat into the Android space. It will surely urge the US authorities to grant it license to keep supplying Huawei with Android at any cost. But should Huawei allow itself to be at the mercy of that?