Can the Ark carry Huawei through the smartphone OS chaos?
Written by Wei Shi | 4 June 2019
Huawei registered “Ark OS” at the European trademark office, likely to be the name of its in-house operating system to replace Android for its future smartphones.
It emerged that Huawei has just registered a couple of trade marks with the European Union Intellectual Property Office. These include “Huawei Ark OS”, “Huawei Ark”, and “Huawei Ark Compiler”. It looks that “Ark” could be an overarching brand that covers both the OS and the compiler. It is possible that this would be the name of choice by Huawei for its in-house operating system to replace Android, as was reported earlier. Huawei declined Telecoms.com’s request for comment.
All the three trademarks filed belong to two classes on the “Nice Classification” of goods and services: Class 9 under “goods”, which the applicant explained specifically refers to “compiler software; operating systems for electronic devices”; and Class 42 under “services”, which the application specified includes “design and development of compiler software and operating systems for electronic devices; design and development of mobile phone applications featuring compiler software; Software as a Service (Saas) featuring compiler software.” The applications are “under examination” by the EU office.
Separately, the trademark office of China displayed that Huawei had filed applications for “Huawei Hongmeng” as the name of its operating system. The application was made in May 2018 and was published for opposition on 14 May 2019. In the Chinese myths, “Hongmeng” refers to the chaos before the world was created.
As we commented earlier, developing its own operating system is not the hardest thing to do. A Chinese media outlet reported that the OS was developed on top of Linux, the same kernel as Android, but with optimisation from the Huawei team. The more difficult part is to rally app developers around the platform. If the estimate is correct that Ark is the name of Huawei’s own mobile, Huawei is also providing its compiler to make porting apps to its own OS as easy as possible. Compilers are a kind of software language “translator” so that apps written in one language (e.g. Unix) can be ported to a platform based on another language (e.g. Linux). How much app developers will be motivated to carry out the porting will be a big question mark.
Constrained by time and budget, most apps developed for the Android platform, notorious for the fragmentation of the device specs, are often only tested on the top 20 or 30 best-selling models before they are submitted for publication (e.g. in the Play Store). That is why if a consumer is not using one of those best-selling models, she may find certain apps not rendering properly. Using compilers to port the apps to another platform, despite that it is based on a similar kernel, will be more complex and add additional cost. Both Windows Phone and Tizen, among other attempts, failed to dent the iOS – Android duopoly because there was not enough developer enthusiasm. Additionally, this will not solve the problem that the new platform may not have access to Google’s core apps: Maps, Gmail, YouTube, etc.
So, a safe bet would be that some Ark / Hongmeng based smartphones will be launched, if only for publicity purposes. Huawei will most likely sponsor the development of some apps, as Microsoft and Samsung did with their pet platforms. But its success will be limited, and its relevance minimal outside China. We may recall that a handful of Tizen smartphones were launched, to show that the platform, and the investment, actually delivered something, despite that all market indications were pointing to its failure.