China's going to make a mobile OS and everyone will love it, predict ball-gazing analysts
Autonomous cars and smart clothes look like a dud, though
Huawei last year denied reports that it's developing its own mobile OS to lessen its dependence on US giants like Google.
The South China Morning Post had reported that Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei blessed the doomsday project, to be activated in case of a "worst-case scenario". The Alibaba-owned paper said Huawei has such projects already running on PCs and tablets. Execs said it had no need to do so, finding Android perfectly acceptable.
But the European Commission is keen for competition to Google to develop, and doesn't see it coming from outside the Android ecosystem because of the dearth of apps on any new platform. Logically, then, the competition will come from forks built on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) base.
In its always-interesting annual predictions, CCS Insight has said the prospect is real and possibly even likely by 2022, as US tech dominance fragments. CCS sees China taking a lead in 5G and winning mindshare for its home-grown services.
"At least 200 million smartphones with a new Chinese operating system are sold in 2020," CCS Insight said. "The current political tension between China and the US and ensuing troubles for ZTE and Huawei present a strong incentive for other Chinese companies to create their own operating system for smart devices. Spurred by a desire to quickly reduce their dependence on US companies, Chinese technology players use the replacement of 4G smartphones with 5G-ready devices to advance the transition to a home-grown platform."
Two hundred million isn't difficult to achieve in China, giving the new platform scale. CCS also said it saw Tencent and Alibaba becoming more significant in the West and emerging markets. Depressingly, they'll appeal to authoritarian governments because of their use in "citizen scoring" as much as e-commerce. Ubiquitous surveillance allows the state to monitor a wide range of an individual's activity, and those deemed to be poor citizens, such as political opponents (or people who use plastic cups), suffer when applying for credit, work or travel.
"The competition that is playing out in south-east Asia and parts of Africa is as much about internet service paradigms as about the providers themselves," the analyst company said. It predicted that Facebook will position itself as a provider of government digital services.
CCS Insight reflected the growing scepticism about autonomous vehicles, predicting that countries will begin to ban Level 2 ("hands off") or Level 3 ("eyes off") vehicles from next year.
"The transition to these levels of control is problematic owing to the immaturity of the technology and the need for occasional and sudden intervention by the driver," CCS prognosticated. "Several accidents lead to a crackdown by regulators. Restrictions are imposed on how companies can market what should be referred to as a safety aid rather than 'self-driving' functions. Some countries move to ban the technology outright."
Some robot vehicle use might be seen in highly regulated and lower risk environments, though, such as refuse collection in business districts.
CCS also predicted a sticky time for operators implementing 5G – a messy experience given the variety of technologies involved.
"Differing operator strategies result in vastly different levels of performance and coverage. Manufacturers are likely to design initial handsets with a geographic focus, supporting either sub-6GHz bands or millimetre-wave spectrum, and in a few cases both. This variation in performance exacerbates the challenge of marketing 5G technology; it risks frustrating users as they try to compare oversimplified promises based on raw speed."
But you'll be relieved to hear that "smart clothing remains a highly niche product category serving specific segments such as professional sports". Nobody wants to talk to their trousers. ®