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Report: HUAWEI hedging its bets with an in-house OS
Huawei has risen to become one of the major players in today’s smartphone market, due in no small part to its adoption of Google’s Android operating system. However, a report from The Information suggests that HUAWEI may be working on a Plan B option in case Android somehow goes to the dogs, in the form of an in-house custom operating system.
The report states that HUAWEI recently hired ex-Apple designer Abigail Brody to spearhead development and to spruce up the look and feel of HUAWEI’s custom Android skin that ships on its smartphones. According to Brody, she is working on “glaring cosmetic issues” and “pain points” in HUAWEI’s current Android software. She also believes that these type of improvements could push HUAWEI from third to first place in the smartphone market, with a “lifestyle-centric ecosystem, and without having to copy Apple at all.” The custom, non-Android in-house operating system is said to just be a backup in case the Android ecosystem ever becomes unfavorable for the company, but development isn’t very far along yet.
HUAWEI isn’t the only major Android manufacturer to have tried its hand at a custom operating system. Samsung’s Tizen OS powers the company’s smart-home products, smartwatches, and even a handset or two, although this operating system shares a similar Linux background to Google’s Android. Of course, the biggest issue that faces custom-OS adoption is the lack of application support for an unused and new platform. Samsung and even Microsoft have made attempts to bring Android app support to their operating systems without success. However, Samsung has managed to greatly increase the number of apps available for Tizen over the past couple of years, due in part to a decent SDK platform and devolpment support. Although support from Google is still notably absent. HUAWEI will need to put some major investments in place if it decides that it wants to attract consumers and developers to its custom OS, if and when it’s ready.
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Huawei’s market is a little different to Samsung’s though, in so much as most of it’s smartphone sales are still based in China, where popular Google Android apps, such as Maps, are not available anyway. It seems logical that HUAWEI would focus on Chinese app development for its OS first and foremost, which would certainly be easier than trying to attract international development for a fledgling platform.
All of this being said, there’s no indication that HUAWEI is unhappy with using Android for it’s smartphones, and development is going to take a significant amount of time. Still, it never hurts to have a Plan B and HUAWEI is certainly an ambitious, growing technology company.