Harmony is not (yet) on song

The MC at the Canal Walk Huawei brand store opening told an anecdote of how she would look at the stunning Huawei TV in studio every morning – she is also a host on a national broadcaster breakfast show. Well, madame, it seems you spoke the Honor Vision into existence.

Huawei has a smart TV that runs the company’s newly announced Harmony OS (which is still called by the ridiculous HongMeng name in China – I don’t care what it means, it doesn’t translate well to english). Predictably, it looks like a bad rip of the Apple TV app interface. So basically like a slightly more classy Amazon Prime Video interface.

Bless them for trying, though. To be fair, there’s a lot of interesting things going on in Harmony. It uses a micro kernel compiler, which means less code for developers when writing apps that are designed to run on different device types. It’s a direct competitor to what Google is doing by wedding Android to Chrome OS with Fuschia. It’s also what Apple is trying to do in a very Apple way with Marzipan apps on the Mac.

Now it’s on a TV.

Smart TVs are on the rise now because we’re finally over the 3D trend, also more people have internet connections at home and it’s been almost two decades since high definition flat panel TVs became an affordable thing. But just like car manufacturers haven’t figured out that people want to use their other smart screens like they do their smartphones (same apps and services), starting with a TV is a dumb way to launch a new operating system.

Will the Google Play or iTunes movies I own show up on here? At least Samsung and LG have the kind of critical mass to strike content deals with competitors. And when the streaming wars finally kick off (you’ll know it started when Disney+ and Apple TV+ make it to South Africa), what about that platform lock-in? Skyworth just launched its Android TV OS sets in SA and the Amazon Prime Video app won’t download to it.

And that’s the central problem with Huawei trying to make a move with a new OS. If you arrive to the streaming service party without the full bag of tricks, it’ll take more than a pop-up camera for supersized video calling – or more accurate surveillance – to get a leg up. Yes, they jumped the “new app compiler” hurdle in a shorter time than I thought and the OS seems pretty quick on paper, but that’s not where success lies.

LG and Samsung have the best display panels right now and have mated that to useful software features. The in-car smart screen situation is getting better with more manufacturers adding CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Samsung have extended DeX emulation to PC and Mac compatibility. Android Oreo and Pie were great maturing moments that embraced the all-screen smartphone era. Everything that Huawei is trying to achieve with Harmony OS already has a well-entrenched player in the position.

But Huawei do have a bigger war chest to entice developers than Microsoft did when it tried to compete. Still, the profits are already being made on iOS and, to a lesser extent, Android. But if Ninja could leave Twitch, then maybe Harmony OS has a shot.

Face ID hacked

Here’s a news story that I thought would get more coverage from the anti-Apple crowd: Face ID was hacked in the strangest way. It requires you to be asleep and then the hackers need to put glasses on you it takes advantage of the coolest feature of Face ID

You see, unlike other facial recognition implementations, Apple requires a “live human” or the attention of the user to authenticate. The awesome thing with the gaze detection (literally recognising if you’re looking at the screen) is that you can hide lock screen notifications until you use face unlock.

So to make this function available to people who wear glasses, Face ID lowers the security threshold to only look for the white ring with darker centrepoint contrast target. Hackers at the recent Black Hat summit demonstrated putting glasses with white and black tape on a “sleeping” victim’s face would unlock the phone without the victim’s attention.

For me this more rather underlines the superiority of Face ID over something like a fingerprint because falling asleep doesn’t stop your fingerprints from working…

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