Last month, it emerged that Huawei had published its first HarmonyOS developer preview, HarmonyOS being the 'brand-new distributed operating system for all scenarios'. In practice, this means that Huawei will install HarmonyOS across multiple device types, from smart home hardware to smartwatches and smartphones. HarmonyOS on smartphones will be a major part of the OSes success though, as Huawei implicitly admitted when it revealed the then HongMeng OS as an alternative to Android. Perhaps arrogantly, Huawei claimed that its OS had a 5-millisecond processing delay that 'would be up to 60% faster than Android'.
Unfortunately for Huawei, the first HarmonyOS smartphone developer preview demonstrated that the OS borrowed heavily from EMUI 11, the OS that currently runs on Huawei's smartphones and tablets. As we have discussed previously, HarmonyOS for smartphones in its current form falls far short of being a 'brand-new...operating system'.
Instead, it looks like Huawei has ported the core of EMUI to HarmonyOS, although Huawei is unhappy with those who draw that comparison. According to Huawei Central, the President of Huawei's Consumer Business Software Department, Wang Chenglu, had this to say about HarmonyOS and its similarities with EMUI:
By projecting the source code of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) as the base of Hongmeng OS and judging that Huawei has only changed the skin of Android, reveals that people have less understanding of open source software.
Huawei Central further excuses Huawei by positing that 'not all Android code is developed by Google, most of the code comes from the open-source community'. You can read more about how AOSP works in its FAQ, but taking apart Ars Technica's article with the argument that HarmonyOS uses AOSP misses the point.
Huawei cannot reap the good PR of announcing that it will release a brand-new OS only to release one based on AOSP. Since HarmonyOS uses AOSP as its base, then it is a fork of that OS and not a brand-new one. We have no problem with Huawei doing this, but only if it were forthcoming about it from the start.
Ultimately, Microsoft's failure with Windows Mobile suggests that using AOSP as a base will be a wise move from Huawei. In doing so, Huawei has provided HarmonyOS with the strong developer support and Android app compatibility that Windows Mobile lacked.
However, Huawei's latest comments underscore that it was dishonest in its marketing of HarmonyOS, at least for smartphones. HarmonyOS is not a 'brand-new...operating system', and we are glad that Huawei has finally admitted that this is the case.