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2021-06-03 10:47:20

Chinese telecom giant Huawei launched an upgraded version of its homegrown operating system HarmonyOS on Wednesday, as the company attempts to recover from U.S. sanctions that have cut it off from Google’s Android ecosystem.

The operating system, known as HarmonyOS 2, will power roughly 100 different Huawei devices, including smartphones, watches, and laptops, the company said in a statement. The company has billed it as a “next-generation operating system” that “provides a common language for different kinds of devices to connect and collaborate.”

HarmonyOS, also known as Hongmeng in Chinese, is an open-source operating system first launched on devices with the Internet of Things (IoT) — a network of physical objects embedded with technologies that connect with other devices and systems over the internet — in August 2019.

Huawei has been developing its own operating system to allow its devices to run independently of the Android ecosystem. The Chinese company has seen its access to the Google OS and other American-developed technologies increasingly curtailed since 2018, due to the impact of U.S. government sanctions.

In March, the U.S. labeled five Chinese tech companies, including Huawei, national security threats, but the company had been facing a blow to its business since it was included in a trade blacklist in May 2019. Huawei claimed the labeling as “unlawful and misguided” when American officials voted in favor of the mandate late last year.

The restrictions have hurt Huawei’s revenues, with the company reporting an 11% drop in the last quarter of 2020. The company’s chairman Ken Hu told the BBC in March that the U.S. sanction “has caused a lot of damage.”

Huawei’s smartphone business has been hit particularly hard. The company’s market share in China has declined from 46% in mid-2020 to just 15% in the first quarter of 2021, according to market researchers Counterpoint Research.

Several domestic companies have welcomed the launch of Huawei’s new operating system, while Huawei has plans to roll out more than 300 million devices — including 100 million made by other companies — with its homegrown system by the end of 2021.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A salesman shows Huawei’s own operating system at a Huawei Experience Store in Beijing, June 3, 2021. IC)