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Huawei Unveils Harmony, Its Answer to Android, in Survival Bid


DONGGUAN, China — Huawei, the Chinese technology giant, unveiled on Friday its own smartphone operating system, Harmony, in an effort to ensure that its fast-growing handset business can survive the United States government’s clampdown on the firm.

Huawei has been at the mercy of the Trump administration for the past three months, ever since the Commerce Department began requiring that American companies apply for special permission to sell parts and technology to the Chinese firm. The move effectively choked off Huawei’s access to Google’s Android software and American-made microchips and other hardware components, and put a big question mark over Huawei’s future.

Although President Trump said in June that he would loosen some of the restrictions to allow American companies to continue working with Huawei, economic ties between the United States and China have grown more tense since then, and the prospect of immediate relief for Huawei seems more distant.

Unveiling Harmony at a Huawei developer conference in the southern city of Dongguan on Friday, Richard Yu, the head of the company’s consumer business, said that the new operating system was designed to work not only on mobile phones, but on smart watches and other connected home devices as well.

Indeed, the first Huawei product to run on Harmony will not be a smartphone, but a “smart screen” product that the company plans to release later this year. Mr. Yu said that Harmony would gradually be incorporated into the company’s other smart devices over the next three years. But there is no immediate plan, Mr. Yu said, to release a Harmony-based phone.

Huawei’s preference is to continue using Android on its handsets if the United States allows it, Mr. Yu said. But he said there was no technical reason Harmony could not also be used to power a phone. “If we are not able to use Android, then we can activate Harmony anytime,” he said.

Huawei is now the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor, ahead of Apple but behind Samsung.

The company’s new operating system is called Hongmeng in Chinese, but the company decided that the name would be too hard for non-Chinese speakers to pronounce, Mr. Yu said.

“We want to bring greater harmony to the world,” he said.

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