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Huawei says its Android OS replacement launch date is still undecided [Updated]

Update: We've received confirmation from Huawei that there has been some confusion internally, and the launch date of the new Android-replacing operating system, codenamed HongMeng, will not be launching in June this year.

The brand has confirmed earlier statements from Richard Yu, outlining that the OS could be ready for China in late 2019 and internationally in 2020, are still accurate.

The original story has been modified below to reflect this.

Huawei's home-grown operating system - code-named HongMeng - that's set to replace Android once the Huawei ban from Google comes into full effect, will not be commercially rolled out next month, contrary to what TechRadar Middle East was told by a Middle East head for the firm.

On May 20, Google announced that it would partially cut off Huawei devices from its Android operating system but was given an extension till August 19 by the US White House. 

Other tech companies also followed suit, including Intel, Qualcomm, Micron, ARM, etc. Even the Bluetooth, SD and WiFi alliances have also restricted their dealings with Huawei.

"Huawei knew this was coming and was preparing. The OS was ready in January 2018 and this was our 'Plan B'. We did not want to bring the OS to the market as we had a strong relationship with Google and others and did not want to ruin the relationship. Now, we are rolling it out next month," Alaa Elshimy, Managing Director and Vice President of Huawei Enterprise Business Group Middle East, told TechRadar. 

However, representatives from Huawei's consumer group have contacted TechRadar, stating that this is not the case and the actual date is still slated for 2019 / 2020.

The OS, which could be called Ark OS when launched, is expected to be compatible with mobile phones, computers, tablets, TVs, connected cars, smartwatch, smart wearables and others. 

All applications that work with Android are expected to work with this new OS without any need for further customization, Elshimy claims, adding that users will be able to download apps from the Huawei AppGallery.

Whether all apps available via Google's Play Store will also feature in Huawei's store remains to be seen, as we've seen numerous operating systems before (Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS etc) fail to match the volume of Google's and Apple's app store offerings.

If the HongMeng OS misses out on key apps, it could be difficult for Huawei to convince users to switch to handsets running the software.

Huawei is self reliant

"The US sanctions won't affect the company's operating system and the chipsets in any way as we are self-reliant in many aspects. 

"We have all the chipsets except the Intel chips for PCs and servers. Every single storage player in the market is using Qualcomm chipset and we are the only one using our own chipset. That is why we can go at the speed we want" Elshimy added.

Moreover, he said that Huawei has its own ARM-based processor to replace Intel chips and will be launching its own database similar to Oracle soon.

According to industry reports, Huawei buys more than $11 billion in goods and services from US companies each year. However, the Chinese player will now have to get government approval to buy parts or technology from US suppliers. 

What about WiFi?

When asked about how Huawei phones are going to handle WiFi and Bluetooth issues, he said that WiFi is an international standard and Huawei is one of the biggest contributors to the WiFi Alliance.

"In my view, the biggest loser will be the alliance if they keep us out of the alliance"  Elshimy explained. "From an industry point of view, it is a standard and it is good if you meet the standard [but you] don’t need to be part of the alliance. The same answer applies to Bluetooth and SD cases.".

However, he said that keeping Huawei out of the alliance is just putting pressure on Huawei as part of the trade war.

Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s CEO, recently made bold claims about the future of the company despite the protracted situation. He stated that no one could 'catch' Huawei in the next two or three years, as being a private company gives it the advantage because it can make large investments more easily.

Whether this is the case remains to be seen, but Huawei is certainly doing all it can to try and ensure it has a future in smartphones despite the tough sanctions placed upon it.

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