HarmonyOS: “fake it till you make it” meets OS development

After getting access to HarmonyOS through a grossly invasive sign-up process, firing up the SDK and emulator, and poring over the developer documents, I can’t come to any other conclusion: HarmonyOS is essentially an Android fork. The way that Huawei describes the OS to the press and in developer documents doesn’t seem to have much to do with what the company is actually shipping. The developer documents appear almost purposefully written to confuse the reader; any bit of actual shipping code to which you hold up a magnifying glass looks like Android with no major changes.

The phrase “fake it till you make it” is often given as motivational advice, but I’ve never seen it applied to OS development before. If you’ve ever seen a modern Huawei Android phone, HarmonyOS is largely the same thing… with a few strings changed. So while there’s not much new to see, we can at least dissect HarmonyOS and debunk some of Huawei’s claims about its “brand-new” operating system.

Remember HarmonyOS, the operating system Huawei claimed it had written from the ground-up? Yeah it’s just Android 10.

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