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Huawei’s Android puzzle: Is Linux Sailfish now an option alongside its own OS?

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Huawei, scrambling to solve its US ban, may take a multi-pronged approach to its Android and Arm technology. 

The company is developing its own OS plan B, dubbed Hongmeng in China and Ark outside it. But it’s also reportedly looking at a Russian-customized OS called Aurora that’s based on the Linux Sailfish OS from Finnish firm Jolla. 

Huawei exec Andrew Williamson on Thursday said the company will “presumably” trademark the Hongmeng OS and that Huawei is “in the process of potentially launching a replacement”, according to Reuters.

President Donald Trump last month offered a ray of hope to Huawei, suggesting the ban on doing business with US firms like Google could be solved if China agrees to a new trade deal. The two superpowers are, of course, in the midst of an escalating trade war after the US failed to secure a trade deal with China.   

Williamson said Hongmeng OS would be ready to go in months in the event of a full-blown trade war. 

Google in May confirmed that it would bar Huawei from its proprietary version of Android, though the Chinese smartphone maker is still free to use the Android Open Source Project if it wanted.   

Russian news publisher The Bell now reports that Huawei could replace Android with the Aurora OS, which is based on the Linux Sailfish OS distribution from Finnish firm Jolla. 

Aurora OS is owned by Russian telco Rostelecom, which is also an investor in Jolla. Presumably if Huawei did pre-install devices with Aurora it would be for Huawei devices sold in Russia and neighboring markets. 

In 2016, Russian officials decided to make Sailfish the mobile OS for devices used by Russian government agencies and state-owned corporations. 

Jolla’s ties to Russia come via a partnership with Russian firm Open Mobile, a venture bankrolled by Russian businessman Grigory Berezkin, who has reportedly also invested in Jolla.    

Jolla for its part reckons political tensions around the world are opening opportunities for it. Jolla CEO Sami Pienimäki in May told TechCrunch it had “clearly more discussions with eg Chinese device manufacturers” and started new projects in Europe with corporate and government customers.  

The Finnish company in 2017 secured a new investment to launch the Sailfish China Consortium as part of an effort to build a Chinese version of Sailfish and an alternative to Android. That project is making slow progress. 

Pienimäki in February he expected a Sailfish for China would take longer than the three years it took in Russia.

More on Huawei 

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