Huawei is being backed into a corner and may be in serious trouble. They use the Google Android operating system globally in all their smartphones and wireless devices. The US ban says they can no longer use Android. That means they need a viable, competitive replacement and they need it now.
That’s why they just introduced their HarmonyOS. Let’s take a closer look at this serious problem and if Huawei will be able to remain a competitive player in wireless going forward.
Today, there are only two successful players in the mobile operating system race. They are the Apple iPhone iOS and Google Android OS. Many others have tried and failed over more than a decade. That means these two OS have the vast majority of the market, globally.
The recent U.S. ban means Huawei faces a serious roadblock. Since they can no longer use Android, they need to have another mobile OS. So, they are being forced to create their own operating system for their smartphones.
Is Huawei HarmonyOS a viable Android competitor?
If HarmonyOS is a viable operating system competitor, the next big challenge will be convincing the marketplace to use them. That will be a big enough challenge. While it is a big job, it can be done. If it is not a viable competitor, this is bad news for Huawei.
While I have not used HarmonyOS, what I am hearing is a mixed bag of user satisfaction. If this is not a viable competitor, then Huawei could be in serious trouble, globally.
Don’t get me wrong, Huawei is a giant corporation. They won’t disappear. Even if they struggle, the thinking is that China will support them as usual.
Qualcomm, Samsung could benefit from Huawei ban
However, the real battle will be in the marketplace. Which network builder will countries around the world choose? The top two in that area are Qualcomm and Huawei. Another question is which smartphone maker will users choose? There are many other choices like Apple and Samsung.
So, with this U.S. ban in place against China, wireless industry market share could be impacted. It could shift to other network builders and smartphone makers. This is what I am expecting.
This will be an interesting area to watch because 5G is coming on strong and billions of dollars will be invested in networks and smartphone makers globally. We are just in the very early stages of this next wireless revolution.
This is great news for competitors and lousy news for Huawei. It all depends on whether HarmonyOS is ready for prime-time.
Every OS is a continual work-in-progress. So far, reports that HarmonyOS is good, but not great is a concern. Many say it is not up to Android standards.
If that’s the case, what will the user do? Which handset will they choose? This may be different in countries around the world. Some users will be more loyal to Huawei. Others will be pickier. Some may be willing to cut Huawei some slack, while others won’t.
Huawei may survive in 5G, but it won’t be pretty
With all that said, until the U.S. ban is lifted, Huawei is facing a very rough time ahead. Their only hope is to rapidly improve their new HarmonyOS so users love it as much as they do Android.
That’s a big job and I am not sure any company is capable of this. Remember, to date only Apple and Android are winners in this smartphone space. And only Qualcomm and Huawei are leaders with 5G on the network side.
When the Huawei ban is lifted, things can get back to normal. But unless and until Huawei can prove HarmonyOS will be a winner, they face a tough road ahead.
So, the bottom line is thisL Huawei can survive without Android because the Chinese government is behind them. However, survival doesn’t mean users globally will love the new HarmonyOS. Any way we look at this, while Huawei won’t go out of business and while HarmonyOS may work, the future does not look very pretty for them.
Disclosure: Jeff Kagan, like many researchers and analysts, provides or has provided research, analysis, advising, and consulting services to many companies, including AT&T, Sprint, Xfinity Mobile, IBM, PayPal and many others. For more information, as well as a detailed list of clients, visit www.jeffkagan.com. He does not hold equity positions with companies named in this column.