Business Insider Edition

Huawei is planning to drop Google's operating system as soon as next month after being barred from working with US companies

Ben Gilbert , Business Insider US
 May 29, 2019, 08:47 AM
Huawei's Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro line run on Google's Android OS, which includes crucial Google services like Google Play and Gmail.
  • The world's second-biggest smartphone maker, Huawei, is moving to drop Android.
  • It's a huge move in response to the United States effectively blacklisting Huawei from working with American companies including Google, which makes Android.
  • A new OS, code-named HongMeng, could launch as early as June across millions of Huawei devices around the world.
  • For more, go to Business Insider SA.

In the wake of the United States government blocking the Chinese smartphone giant Huawei from working with American companies, the firm is planning to drop Google's Android operating system.

The move is expected to happen as soon as June, months before a 90-day reprieve from the ban is scheduled to end.

That's according to Alaa Elshimy, the managing director and vice president at Huawei Enterprise Business Group Middle East, who spoke with Tech Radar. "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," he said. "Now, we are rolling it out next month."

A Huawei representative did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

It's a major move for Huawei.

The company has sold millions of Android-based smartphones all over the world. Switching the operating system of its smartphones is a massive, foundational shift for the world's second-largest smartphone maker - one that could push away millions of users who have gotten used to Google's ubiquitous OS.

Most important, losing Android means losing crucial Google services like Google Play app store and Gmail.

Elshimy told Tech Radar that the new OS would support Android-based apps and that it would replace Google Play with a "Huawei AppGallery" digital storefront. It's unlikely that Huawei's AppGallery will contain popular US-owned apps, like WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat.

Huawei faces significant challenges in bringing its own operating system, code-named HongMeng, to market - many others have failed, including Amazon, with FireOS, and BlackBerry.

Elshimy and Huawei realise this and consider the rollout of HongMeng to be a contingency. "Huawei knew this was coming and was preparing," Elshimy said. "The OS was ready in January 2018 and this was our 'Plan B.'"

It's unclear whether Huawei users who opt to stick with Android will receive future security updates.

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