Huawei’s ambitious multi-platform operating system HarmonyOS is now official. There was much speculation going on as to whether it would be an Android replacement for Huawei and Honor smartphones or not
However, the company revealed many details about Harmony OS and it appears that their plans for the OS include a lot more than just making it an Android competitor OS.
So, here are some of the differences between Google’s Android and the recently announced Harmony OS:
Harmony OS Vs Android Comparison
It isn’t based on Linux kernel
The fundamental thing that differentiates HarmonyOS from Android is the fact that it doesn’t include Linux at its core. Huawei has developed an entirely new microkernel for its futuristic operating system.
Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business division, went on to compare HarmonyOS with Google’s in-development Fuchsia OS which is based on the Zircon microkernel.
A microkernel is smaller in size than a monolithic kernel (like Linux) as it only includes the bare minimum amount of code that’s required to run the operating system. Huawei’s microkernel has roughly 1/1000 of the amount of code that’s present in the Linux kernel as it only includes thread scheduling and IPC. All other services such as file systems, device drivers, network drivers, etc., run in the userspace.
In such cases, Inter-Process Communication (IPC) becomes an important factor in the overall performance of the OS. Huawei claims its microkernel offers up to 5-times faster IPC than Fuchsia and up to three times faster than the QNX microkernel.
It’s NOT an Android competitor
Right now Huawei is firm in its stance that HarmonyOS isn’t an outright Android competitor. They want to keep working on Android but they can switch their smartphones to HarmonyOS in a day or two if the company gets kicked out of the US (and the Android ecosystem).
Initially, Huawei will focus on bringing the OS to smart screens, smart speakers, car head units, etc. In its recently released tech predictions whitepaper, Huawei expects that there will be an abundance of AI, IoT, and 5G-based technologies by 2025. Designing an OS for such kind of devices seems like a good future-proofing move.
So, it’s more of a plan B that the company has created. Given the rising tensions between the US and China, it’s being speculated that Huawei could go with HarmonyOS for the upcoming Mate 30 series. As of now, the device hasn’t received the Google Play certification, which is a must to preload Android OS and Google services on it.
Theoretically faster than Android
Huawei is using “distributed OS” as its new play to sell its latest offering in the smartphone industry. HarmonyOS uses distributed task scheduling and distributed data management to improve its performance.
Huawei argues that its “distributed” HarmonyOS can outperform Android on the fact that Android uses a lot of redundant code, an outdated scheduling mechanism and has fragmentation issues.
Its microkernel deploys a new scheduling mechanism called “Deterministic Latency Engine” that uses real-time load analysis, app characteristics matching, and forecasting to allocate system resources in a better way.
#HarmonyOS is built with a deterministic latency engine that gives a smooth interactive experience. That means latency is at a minimum; bringing fluid interactive experience to the maximum #HDC2019 pic.twitter.com/p9bnwNHJq6
— Huawei Mobile (@HuaweiMobile) August 9, 2019
The company claims that it has resulted in up to 25.7% improved response latency and 55.6% improvement in latency fluctuation.
Giving an example of a highway, Huawei says Linux’s popular fair scheduling mechanism treats all the resources the same way, which reduces performance. Still, the end result can’t be predicted until the actual OS comes into the hands of the people.
No root access
Many people who use Android have an idea of what is Android rooting and the wonders (and havocs) it could bring to their phones.
Interestingly, at HDC 2019, Huawei announced that its operating system won’t support root access on devices. This should improve the overall security of the microkernel and of the devices.
Further, Huawei said it has deployed “formal verification methods” to boost the security of its microkernel. These are mathematical approaches used in security-critical fields such as aerospace and chipsets. This provides an edge over functional verification and attack simulation which address a limited number of situations.
The app war: Android is still the winner
Amidst all of this, Huawei has one big fight to win, which will eventually decide the ultimate winner: the app ecosystem. We have already seen that the company who owns the app market owns the smartphone industry. Google and Apple are the biggest examples of that.
As far as Huawei is concerned, it is busy trying to lure developers to port their apps to its Play Store alternative called AppGallery.
HarmonyOS doesn’t support Android apps right now but Huawei says that doing so will be very easy for the developers. The company has released all the required SDKs and other tools that will help developers recompile their apps for HarmonyOS.