Seven years ago, in a villa opposite a lake in Shenzhen, a small group of Huawei's top executives, led by Nham Phi founder, held a closed caucus. some days.
Their mission is to come up with an idea of how Huawei will deal with the success and robust development of the operating system for phones developed by Google. The operating system is also being used on Huawei's own handheld device. The biggest concern is that dependence on Android can make the company more vulnerable to prohibition by the US in the future.
The group agreed that Huawei should build a proprietary operating system, as a potential alternative to Android. This meeting is then called "lake talks". Information as well as related documents have been limited and not disclosed to ensure confidentiality, sources said.
After discussions and direction from senior management, a group of experts managed by executives including Xu Zhijun (or Eric Xu – currently one of Huawei's three rotating presidents) came out. established and started implementing this project under strict security conditions.
A specialized area was built right inside Huawei, with guards always standing by the door. Only team members have access to expert areas, through registered employee cards. Personal mobile phones are not allowed to be used, they must always be stored in a locker outside.
The development project of this operating system later became an important task of Huawei 2012 Laboratories (Huawei 2012 Laboratories), which has the function of being the right hand in charge of innovation, research and development. technology of the whole company. It includes scholars and the best researchers, spending billions of yuan invested each year and needing no immediate impact on the company's profits. Most of the research results are not public, including a new operating system development project, which is recently recognized by Huawei.
In 2012, a small group of international brands dominating the smart phone market and Huawei accounted for less than 5% of the global market share. But things have changed. Now, Huawei is the world's second-largest provider of smartphones, bringing the market to more than 206 million smartphones in 2018, with nearly half of this for overseas markets, according to IDC data. .
If there is no tension in trade relations between the US and China, Huawei's proprietary operating system will always be a backup option. Because it is clear that the use of Google or Microsoft products (Windows) has always been the company's first choice, according to a spokesman for Huawei.
But the world continues to change, forcing this Chinese company to soon release its hidden card. In March this year, Yu Chengdong (or Richard Yu), Huawei's director of consumer products, shared the first information regarding the operating system in a German publication. He said the new operating system could be used for both smartphones and computers, in case existing systems provided by US companies no longer exist.
Yu's share came as the US began to increase pressure on Huawei, through warning allies that Chinese companies could risk national security. At the same time, Huawei is facing a series of allegations of stealing trade secrets, violating economic sanctions and hiding business transactions in Iran through an unofficial subsidiary. Chinese companies have repeatedly and vehemently denied these allegations, saying they lack evidence.
In mid-May, the operating system problem became more urgent when the US put Huawei and a host of other Chinese companies blacklisted for trade restrictions. Google, Microsoft and a host of other technology companies began to announce "non-cooperation", non-contact even banning sales of products to Huawei. The US government then confined it to Chinese companies for 90 days before supplies were completely blocked. At this point, Huawei only has a way of revealing its secret plan for an alternative operating system.
According to some industry personnel, Huawei's operating system is based on a simple "kernel" that can respond quickly to adjustments and changes. For a long time, the project engineers studied Android and iOS thoroughly to learn from these products.
However, one of the biggest technical challenges for Huawei's operating system is compatibility with Android. Because it will allow a Huawei phone to use its own operating system to download and run applications on Google Store seamlessly. This compatibility also means that application developers around the world will not need to change their products to run on Huawei phones.
This is not simple. Keep in mind that in the past, many other companies have made an effort to create an Android alternative but failed. Microsoft has tried to develop Windows operating systems for smartphones but only a few Android applications can run smoothly. Samsung also tried to find a way to create the Tizen operating system, but ultimately failed. Similarly, if Huawei products cannot run well on Android applications, the lack of a support ecosystem of its own will remain a headache for Chinese companies.
Huawei registered its brand name for the operating system, Hong Mong (Hongmeng) last year in China. Translated into English, this word refers to a primitive world where everything began to be born. According to another report, the company registered the brand name "Huawei Ark OS" at the European Union's Intellectual Property Office in late May.
According to a new report in the Securities Times on May 21, Richard Yu said Huawei's self-developed operating system could support a wide range of products in the company's ecosystem including smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, cars and wearable devices. In particular, it is also compatible with all existing Android applications and web applications.
According to a screenshot of Yu's WeChat group chat, the product is expected to hit the market as early as this fall and later in the spring to the year. However Huawei refused to verify this information.
Last year, according to Gartner estimates, exclusive applications for Android and iOS accounted for 99.9% of global applications. That means that any new operating system that is incompatible with the applications of either of the operating systems will surely fail.
But Huawei can still be confident about its operating system prospects in China. Because local developers and consumers have not used Google services for a long time. Therefore, they will still support and build a new ecosystem quickly. But the difficulty is that European consumers have begun to fear and limit the purchase of Huawei phones. As device demand drops, this is clearly not the best time to introduce an operating system, because any manufacturer will want to try it when it has the largest market share. Even if the reaction in the country can be fine, the company still cares about the reaction of the international market.
Therefore, Huawei certainly needs some countermeasures against fast and strong attacks from the US. Because despite the long preparation for the worst case, the strong CFO arrest of Chu Meng at the end of 2018 and subsequent successive events made Huawei forced to accelerate his plan.
Positive evidence still shows that this Chinese company is not fully prepared to launch the new operating system. Because although an alternative to Android has been tested thousands of times in the laboratory, it has not been extensively tested on consumer product lines. That means Huawei cannot yet have a solid commercial release date.