Last year, after the U.S. Commerce Department banned Huawei from its U.S. supply chain, the Chinese phone and networking equipment manufacturer scrambled to find new sources. The one stateside supplier that it missed the most was Google since the ban prevented the latter from delivering the Google Mobile Services version of Android to Huawei. While it didn’t matter in China where most of Google’s Android apps are banned, not being able to equip its international models with the Google ecosystem might have cost the manufacturer some sales.
Huawei has been sitting on a phone that runs HarmonyOS
In August of 2019, Huawei announced that it had developed a new operating system called Harmony. Many assumed that this new operating system would be immediately used by Huawei to replace Android. This turned out not to be the case. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer group, pointed out that Harmony is based on a microkernel allowing it to be used on a wide range of devices such as smart speakers, tablets, smartwatches, computers, autos, and smartphones. Huawei also noted that HarmonyOS will work on devices equipped with a small amount of RAM and those requiring hundreds of gigabytes of memory. Thus far, Harmony OS has been available for consumers only on television sets.
HarmonyOS will run a smartphone next year according to Huawei’s Richard Yu
According to MyFixGuide, Mr. Yu said today that in 2021, Huawei will ship its first handset powered by HarmonyOS. What set off this announcement by the long-time Huawei executive was word that the company plans on introducing a second version of Harmony OS this coming Thursday, September 10th, during the 2020 HDC Developers Conference. Several new devices powered by the operating system will soon be announced and this year Huawei says that its new smartwatches will be driven by HarmonyOS.
Yu did admit that Huawei has been sitting on a phone running HarmonyOS, but the company has had to wait because of an agreement it has with Google. But that doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t have high hopes for the platform in the future. The executive says that HarmonyOS will eventually become a worldwide platform.
In a previous speech, Yu said that the upcoming Huawei Mate 40 series will be powered by a new series of 5nm Kirin chips, the Kirin 9000. Not only will these components be produced using the new 5nm process, but they will also have more powerful 5G and AI capabilities, CPUs, and GPUs. But a new export rule put into place by the U.S. prevents foundries from shipping chips to Huawei that were made using U.S. technology. Yu notes, “Unfortunately, under the sanctions of the United States, TSMC only accepted orders before September 15th. By September 15th, it will not be able to produce chips for Huawei. So Kirin 9000 may be our last generation of Huawei Kirin high-end chips.”
Huawei was TSMC’s second-largest customer after Apple last year but the world’s largest individual foundry will not be allowed to ship to the Chinese manufacturer after September 14th. Until that date, TSMC is reportedly running its assembly line 24 hours a day to produce as many as chips that it can until it isn’t allowed to ship to Huawei. China’s largest foundry, SMIC, is not a viable replacement since it is several process nodes behind TSMC. Chip designer Mediatek has reportedly been seeking permission to develop cutting-edge chips for Huawei. It would seem unlikely for the company to get that permission from the U.S., especially considering that Mediatek relies on TSMC to produce its chips. Additionally, administration officials in the U.S. have complained about Huawei’s ability to skirt the Entity List ban.
Assuming that Huawei has been able to stock up on 5nm chips, the company has a little time-not much mind you-to find a new source of 5nm SoCs.