Last week Huawei unveiled a new operating system at its annual Developer Conference. Prior to the unveiling of the operating system, many thought it would be an Android replacement, but as Huawei explains it, HarmonyOS is not designed to succeed the Google-designed operating system.

Instead it’s made with connected ecosystems in mind, and in particular for smart devices like TVs, speakers and smartwatches.

This is just some of the insights that Huawei South Africa was able to unpack for us earlier today at a local media briefing, where HarmonyOS, the firm’s current business plans and developer ecosystem were explained.

Here’s what the firm had to say.

Long time coming

One of the first myths Huawei SA’s CTO Akhram Mohamed wanted to dispel, was that HarmonyOS was developed as a reaction to a crisis. More specifically the trade restrictions imposed on the company earlier this year. In fact, Huawei notes that HarmonyOS was under development in some form or another since 2012, with it taking the guise of Hongmeng OS two years ago.

As such this is something that has been working on for some time, with it designed as a means for improving customer experience, the firm adds.

While Mohamed notes that HarmonyOS is not designed to replace Android, he did explain that it can should the need arise. That need would take the form of the United States imposing trade restrictions once again, and no resolution being in sight. The CTO also adds that Huawei would have it ready to launch globally in a matter of days, but agin stressed that this is not where the strategy for the new operating system lies.

Instead, it’s for a connected ecosystem. Said ecosystem is already starting to take shape, with the firm’s HiLink platform serving smart homes, and featuring 260 brand partners, 30 million-plus users and 140 million-plus IoT devices, Huawei notes.

HarmonyOS will also assist in driving Huawei’s four key technology pillars moving forward – 5G, AI, Cloud and IoT. Most of these pillars are also linked to one another. the internet of things for example, can begin to come to fruition once 5G is up and rolling, and many of Ai applications in future will be running out of the cloud.

As such it looks like HarmonyOS is designed with a bigger picture in mind, and not simply as an interface between user and device.

Calling all devs

Huawei SA’s GM, Likun Zhao, adds that HarmonyOS will be fully open source, which is important for developers in particular.

Speaking of which, he also spoke about the $1 billion fund that Huawei is creating for app developers to work with the new OS. To that end he explains that roughly 20 percent of that $1 billion is going to developers in China, and the remaining 80 percent for the rest of the world.

As for South African developers, Zhao did not offer up a specific percentage, as naming a figure would potentially undercut developers in other regions. Huawei’s Shining Star programme will assist in this regard though, working as a platform to not only engage with the local developer community, but getting them the help needed should they show promise.

Having only just been announced by Huawei, there are still many lingering questions about HarmonyOS. Such as what kinds of devices with the operating system are heading to SA, and when they can be expected?

Regarding both of those queries Huawei SA says it is still in the discussion phase as it looks at the best possible options for its local consumers and partners alike. The firm does note though, that because of South Africa’s significance, we should fall in line with the release of HarmonyOS touting devices and services moving forward.

Either way, it’s an interesting time for Huawei.