It’s hardly surprising that there was more on the agenda during Xin Jinping’s last visit to Russia than the parties admitted. Still, who did see it coming that Chinese national champion Huawei is considering an operating system of a Russian origin?
A hardly expected turn of events, but Huawei reportedly is not just testing the Aurora mobile operating system as an alternative to Android, but there was talking about a broader tech cooperation that would include joint production of chips and other software for Huawei devices in Russia.
Aurora originates from Finland. This mobile operating system is based on the Sailfish OS, which was developed by the Finnish Jolla. The Sailfish OS has been developed further into the Russian Open Mobile Platform. State-owned carrier company Rostelecom acquired 75% of the Open Mobile Platform in 2018.
Zak Doffman, CEO and founder of Digital Barriers, assesses the situation i.e. discussions of a possible transition as part of the effort that would decouple the supply chain of Chinese tech companies from U.S. suppliers and licences. According to Doffman, a non-Android OS has no chance to replace Google’s smartphone ecosystem in Europe. If for nothing else, this alternative OS would have to fight off a myriad of patent disputes first.
However, a forming Russo-Chinese axis of technology is about to challenge the dominance of U.S. big tech. In this constellation China would bring an unlimited war chest to the table, Russian would join with more brains to eventually enjoy the benefits of a technologically advanced ’splinternet’ – what Doffman calls it.
The report about Aurora came amidst the growing news that Huawei might introduce an open-source Android OS ’in the next few months’ for its devices. The telecommunictions giant has been filing trademark applications for a backup operating system called ’Hongmeng’ (or HongWeng) or ’Ark OS’, which have been under development since 2012, the time when another Chinese telcom, ZTE was in the crosshairs.
The testing of Aurora may just indicate a joint product that is meant solely for the Russian/CIS/diaspora market (Samsung leads, Huawei is almost in tie with Xiaomi there).