For two years now, we have seen an epic story that Huawei has gotten into thanks to US sanctions. The announcement of the second version (although we did not see the first in our eyes) of the Harmony operating system was the culmination of these events. Now it is impossible to say how much this will help the company to stay on the market, but one thing is clear: Huawei has shown exactly how the ecosystem of modern electronics should develop, in which, firstly, there are more and more all kinds of “smart” technology from kettles and sockets to TVs and washing machines. And secondly, everything revolves around the smartphone. New technologies and new interfaces are needed, and Huawei in its Harmony showed what they can be.
It all started back in early 2019, when the US administration first blacklisted an electronics manufacturer, barring its companies from doing business with Huawei. The sanctions were postponed several times, but in the end, the flagship Mate 30 was released without Google services in November 2019. It was followed by Huawei P40 in March 2020. For Huawei, the short-term era of AG-smartphones (after the name of the App Gallery branded application store) has begun, in which we still live. It was notable for the lack of such important services for buyers as maps and navigation and contactless payments with a smartphone.
Motorists who lost access to Android Auto suffered separately. And if everything with navigation and search has already been somehow resolved thanks to the launch of the Petal branded service, then the issue of contactless payment is still stuck. All this dramatically affected the sales of Huawei smartphones – the manufacturer dropped out of the top 5, although a year ago it became the leader, bypassing Samsung. Last year, it became clear that all the necessary gears in Huawei are spinning, the point of no return has been passed and a return to Android has become impossible even if the sanctions are completely lifted (the Biden administration, by the way, is in no hurry, but Huawei has already finally decided that it cannot live with such risks further). It remained to move forward – to its own operating system. And now the day has come.
Make it Possible becomes Make the Impossible Possible
The Harmony operating system came out under the slogan, as if from the “Three Musketeers”: “One for all and all for one.” In full accordance with the developed concept of “1 + 8 + N” , Huawei has focused on five types of devices (in addition to the smartphone): fitness and health, smart office, entertainment, smart home, and easy travel. cartography and automotive electronics). At the same time, during the presentation, it was said that the company’s slogan “Make it Possible” was transformed into “Make the Impossible Possible” (make the impossible possible). As they say, tough times call for drastic action. Although so far the new slogan serves rather for internal application and motivation of its own employees, but over time, its perception is capable of changing.
What is the problem with modern platforms
In 2021, we found ourselves in a world where many different smart devices appeared, running different operating systems, even within the framework of a seemingly one platform (everyone understands that this is a confrontation between Apple and Google). Its own system for smartphones, its separate version for tablets. Separate – for smartwatches, TVs and cars. And then there is the problem of interfaces that have not changed, probably since the advent of touch screens and multitouch gestures. And separately, it is worth mentioning the problem that constantly oppresses every owner of their own zoo of smart devices: each manufacturer makes its own application for them, and then it also requires registration and authorization (personal data have long become the main assets of technology companies). Best of all (so far) gets out of Apple’s situation with its HomeKit, where all applications are extensions to its service, but the entrance ticket there is high for numerous Chinese manufacturers. We will return to how Harmony gracefully solves this problem a little later.
The Harmony 2 operating system is capable of working even with very simple IoT devices that have only 128 kilobytes of memory and formally do not even have a display. Although the main ones are now three: a smartphone, a tablet, and a watch (the TV is taken out of the brackets, it will be clear later why).
We are now entering a new era where everything will be interconnected and intellectually; however, the consumer experience is not ready for the new era. We can use Harmony OS for smartphones and watches, and it can even be implemented on devices with only 128KB of RAM – I don’t think any other operating system in the world is capable of that.
Today we will learn a few new words (the topic of a new era has). And although all these are rather marketing terms, they allow you to somehow figure out what happened and bring all-new devices to some understandable denominator. The first word is DSoftbus. It is a kind of data transfer protocol that allows consumers to collect the capabilities of various equipment, depending on their own needs in one device. For example, using this function, users can control cameras of other devices (including smart phones) to shoot from different angles. This shooting function is called multi-camera and looks like this:
Super Device or Super Device
This is generally the key concept of the Harmony operating system, around which everything revolves. The real Ring of Omnipotence. All connections to any other devices should be as simple as possible for the user. All of them, of course, must run Harmony, with the only exception made for Windows (there will be a special plug-in that visually looks like a separate drive in Explorer – just as we work today with Dropbox or other cloud services). And that, of course, is Harmony’s weakest point today. The vicious circle, which Huawei must break in order to achieve success: on the one hand, convince/force equipment manufacturers to release their microwave ovens on Harmony, and users to buy Huawei smartphones. And both of these processes should go in parallel because without each other they are meaningless.
And here we see a real visual miracle and innovation in the interface. Thanks to the use of a single platform for connecting devices, no settings are needed: the user immediately sees all available devices on the Super Device widget screen and connects the smartphone to them by simply moving the icons. It looks fantastic and a logical question: why didn’t anyone think of this before (hello, Apple)?
It is interesting that such a Super Device can be made, for example, a TV, if you use a smartphone to connect wireless headphones to it by the same simple drag and drop of the icon. At the presentation, a phrase was heard that it does not matter how many devices can be connected to a smartphone at the same time.
Huawei guarantees that they are as easy for the user to use as they are with a single device. And, by the way, this approach, at the same time, makes it possible to simplify the creation of smart TVs – it is enough for them to be no smarter than a microwave oven because a connected smartphone can take over all the work with the Internet (and the buyer of a TV on Harmony already has a smartphone). In general, Huawei perfectly solves the problem of ecosystem development by offering a fresh vision.
Control Panel or Control Panel
The dashboard looks to be one of the main Harmony widgets. It can be used to manage Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections without having to go into the settings of these devices. It turns out that Harmony does not need a “shutter” of the notification panel – the control panel will already show the status of all devices, both connected and disconnected.
It is interesting that, for example, in the music widget, it will be possible to select a priority music service and a priority device for sound output. It looks like Huawei has figured out how to get rid of the rudimentary Android controls and breathe new life into widgets. By the way, in addition to widgets, of course, there will be regular application icons and folders. Moreover, the folders will become smart – when you move one icon to another (a standard operation for creating a folder on the smartphone’s desktop), the system will offer to add all other applications of the same type to the folder. That will allow in semi-automatic mode to create folders with games, service applications, fitness applications and so on.
The Control Panel will be available for smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. Huawei promises that in the future, any Harmony-powered screen devices will receive Control Panel support.
A generic name for a developer toolkit that makes it easy to connect any Harmony-powered device to one another. And not just connect, but make them work without any additional applications! Another mini-revolution that allows you to easily bypass (in theory, at least) even Apple HomeKit (here he promised to return to the question and returned). Visually, it looks like our usual NFC connection with a simple touch. But then the magic of Harmony comes into effect – in the pop-up service widget when connected, buttons appear with scenarios of what can be done with the connected device.
At the presentation, they talked about three scenarios: choosing a recipe for the microwave, choosing the best temperature for storing sashimi in the refrigerator, and linking with the Huawei Health app. allowing you to choose the optimal soy milk smoothie recipe based on the user’s diet and performance. That is, the main task of Atomic Services is to save humanity from the need to install a separate application to control any new smart device from a smartphone. This is strategically correct because dozens and hundreds of new smart devices await us in the future.
During the presentation, they brought statistics (the source of the data is not specified, but, in my fastidious opinion, the numbers look believable – people are lazy by nature). So, according to statistics, less than 10% of smart device users install applications for them on their smartphones. And of those who installed, less than 5% use smart features. In such a form, as the developers of Harmony came up with, the picture will clearly be more optimistic, because the smartphone will do everything for them. There is little to do – to convince people to buy new smartphones, and tech manufacturers to get their coffee makers on the Harmony. At the presentation, by the way, it was announced that on September 10 last year, Harmony OS became available for partners – manufacturers of household appliances.
Service Center and Service Widgets
Atomic services work through their own service widgets, which, apparently, are automatically downloaded from the Internet at the time of pairing with a new device. And to manage them, there is another panel-widget – Service Center (the second after the control panel). Service widgets make it easy to transfer information between connected devices. Although, thanks to the cloud services of operating system manufacturers, we are already accustomed to the fact that we start typing on a smartphone and continue on a computer, here the possibilities are even wider.
For example, a connected tablet and a smartphone share a common running taskbar. And all this (at least we are promised) will work damn closely with each other. For example, at the presentation, a (still hypothetical) situation was simulated in which a user gets on a bus, applies a smartphone to the validator, paying for travel, and receives a service widget with a bus route. Where he can choose the stop he needs, and a notification that it is time to get off will fly to him both on his smartphone and on the connected smartwatch. The Service Center will also be available for smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches.
Performance and safety
While in my opinion there is more marketing in these messages than promises that can be tested, they are also worth saying about them. The Huawei speaker at the presentation said that according to statistics, about 20% of smartphone users fill up the entire amount of smartphone memory 3 years after work and the smartphone starts to slow down. And supposedly Harmony does not slow down in such situations even when the memory is full – everything starts up and works quickly. And the performance of Harmony is also higher than that of smartphones in a bundle of Android + EMUI (which, it seems, is really being abandoned because Harmony essentially becomes EMUI). Solid optimization in memory management, rendering in games, and so on. Well, and, of course, we did not fail to talk about how everything is safe and secure – all devices running Harmony are paired using public-key encryption.
In the dry residue
Science, in the person of me, does not know what Huawei will actually get out of all this. You can be sure of two things: firstly, even the Chinese home market (where Huawei is the leader, and no one heard about Google services there – they were closed even before the advent of Android smartphones) the company is enough to implement all these ideas and get support not only buyers but. and numerous manufacturers (everyone understands that all these manufacturers, for the most part, are also Chinese) equipment. Secondly, the level of rethinking the current needs of smartphone users and the proposed interface solutions cause, if not admiration, then respect. To this can be added the resulting synergy from control over both the hardware and the operating system – compare Apple’s success in this field and the constant failures of Microsoft and Google, who know how to make operating systems, but don’t know how to make hardware. And bring it to the market. Oh boy, before you argue about the coolness of the Pixel and Surface, will you remind me of their market share? That’s the same. Be that as it may, Huawei managed to show something new and amazing in Harmony. After so many years of stagnation, the market is again becoming interesting and unpredictable. It will be interesting.