Huawei's Ark Compiler Is A Publicity Stunt?
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Huawei saga seems to grow ever more unreal as it unfolds. Its main strategy to get programmers working with its new OS Harmony is a compiler, Ark,  that takes Android apps and compiles them, but it seems it doesn't work. More than this, it's a very long way from working.


I have to admit that while I understand the strategy and intent I haven't tried the Ark compiler and am relying on the comments of the many Chinese programmers who have to judge its state.

The back story is, and I'm sure most of you will already know, that Huawei is being banned from using Android due to trade sanctions. As a result it has decided that the only way to be sure of producing phones in the future is to create its own operating system, i.e. Harmony. The problem is that a new operating system needs apps and apps need programmers to create them. The idea is that instead of having to start from scratch we can convert our existing Android apps from Java bytecode. There seem to be plans to convert other languages, such as C++ and JavaScript - which is a little strange as these would be much more difficult to convert.


The compiler has been open sourced and programmers are trying it out and basically not liking what they find.

The Chinese magazine Abacus says:

"A scam. A publicity stunt. Premature. These are just a few of the things Chinese developers are saying about the release of Huawei’s supposed secret weapon: The Ark Compiler."

There is speculation that the compiler is so bad that it is a PR stunt designed to make Google, and the US trade war, look less threatening. It might just be a bargaining chip.

“Not only can’t the Ark Compiler compile all the standard benchmark samples, it can’t even compile ITS OWN demo sample!” Xing Yin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, wrote."

Others seem to claim that with a bit of effort you can get it to compile but getting it to run seems like even more effort. The demo on the compilers web site is also a little strange as it compiles a "hello world" program and the Chinese above the output window translates to "non-real compilation".

The whole idea of a compiler to move apps from one environment to another is not new. Microsoft used the idea extensively to try to get Android and iOS apps to run on Windows Phone, but it was never easy enough nor successful enough to make it worthwhile. History seems to be repeating itself. We will have to wait and see if Huawei can make it work or not.


Mike James is author of  Android Programming in Kotlin: Starting With An App  and Android Programming In Java: Starting With An App, 3nd Ed covering Android Studio 3.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 September 2019 )