Hongmeng is Huawei’s plan B for Google ban

Have you heard about a mobile operating system (OS) called Hongmeng? It doesn’t ring a bell and of course it is a Chinese name.

Well, it could become one of the most popular phenomena should the US ban on Huawei and by an extension trade war with China is not deescalated anytime soon.

Despite the partial easing of sanctions on Huawei by the US Department of Commerce, there are still more hurdles in front of Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms company, Chinese tech ‘crown jewel’ struggling to survive under various restrictions from American companies as well as those in other allied countries.

Earlier this week, Alphabet Inc’s Google said it will no longer include Huawei’s smartphones and mobile devices in its update for its Android mobile OS, a move that technically bans the world’s second largest smartphone maker on the world’s largest mobile software platform.

To lessen the pressure on its further existence, Huawei is now reported to be planning the rollout of Hongmeng, its mobile OS to replace Google’s Android.

According to a latest report by asiatimes.com, citing a mainland China news media, Richard Yu Chengdong, the chief executive of Huawei Consumer Business Group, recently told friends on WeChat that Huawei has a “Plan B,” which includes its self-developed chipset and operating system.

Industry experts said Huawei’s chips refer to the Kirin series developed by HiSilicon, its subsidiary, while Huawei’s operating system refers to Hongmeng. The names of the two products are related to Chinese mythology as Kirin, or Qilin in Mandarin, is a one-horned beast, while Hongmeng is the situation before the world was created.

The development of Hongmeng has reportedly been led by Chen Haibo, a professor at the School of Software, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, since 2012. Built upon the Linux system, it operates with Huawei EROFS, a document system, and Fangzhou compiler, a code translator.

In a recent WeChat post, Yu said Huawei’s OS will be available later this Fall or early Spring. He said the OS will be compatible with all Android apps on phones, computers, tablets, TVs, cars, and wearables.

“Hongmeng will look and operate like Android so that users can adapt to it easily,” Wong said. “A good user experience is what Hongmeng must achieve as it will help improve its acceptability from users.”

In the short term, Huawei will inevitably be hurt if it has to switch from Android to Hongmeng, but it may benefit in the long run as the self-developed OS can help improve users’ loyalty in developing countries, especially along the Belt and Road, Wong said.

There are no assurances that the ensuing trade war between the US and China would end anytime soon and Huawei is still a major part of the puzzle should a truce be considered.

However, the complications behind the US-China trade relationships is already making experts to forsee a long drawn battle that would have wide reaching consequences.