Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Huawei or Google way, which “wei” for Botswana?

BY VICTOR BAATWENG

This week global mobile phone users including those in Botswana woke up to a rather un-familiar caution from American tech company – Google.

“It’s Google way or The Huawei”

Google made the market-shaking caution after a decision by the Commerce department in the US to place Chinese tech giant – Huawei and nearly 70 of its affiliates on an “ HYPERLINK “https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2019-10616.pdf” \t “_blank” Entity List”.

The inclusion of Huawei on the said list means that US suppliers such as Google may now need a license to do business with the Chinese tech giant ÔÇô currently world leader in mobile phones sales. 

Presently the US move however is reported to affect only future devices as current Huawei users can still access Google owned ÔÇô Android services.

“For Huawei users’ questions regarding our steps to comply with the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US government requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device”, said Android on its Twitter page this past Monday.

But does this means global users of Huawei phones including those in Botswana should not panic? The answer is partially yes. Infact Senior Account Manager at Huawei Botswana – Frelimo Kebopetswe says the company will seek remedies immediately and find a resolution to this matter.

“We will also proactively endeavour to mitigate the impacts of this incident”.

Kebopetswe says Huawei is against the decision made by the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce.

“This decision is in no one’s interest. It will do significant economic harm to the American companies with which Huawei does business, affect tens of thousands of American jobs, and disrupt the current collaboration and mutual trust that exist on the global supply chain”.

At the same time it seems Huawei is not entirely unprepared for this eventuality;  HYPERLINK “https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2143711/huawei-sees-building-alternative-android-insurance-amid-us-china-trade-tensions” it has reportedly been developing its own mobile operating system since 2012.

On Thursday ÔÇô three days after the ban, Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business told US channel CNBC that the company could roll out its own operating system for smartphones and laptops in China before the end of 2019.  The international version of the system ÔÇô known as ÔÇô HongMeng could be ready in the first or second quarter of 2020.

In the meantime, the company vows to continue providing security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei smartphones covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally.

Why HongMeng is not the only solution

The Android ban is a big problem for Huawei, but it is not just Google that has stopped doing business with the company. This means that the Chinese company’s lack of access to critical hardware could be a bigger issue in the long run.

Although Huawei assembles its phones and makes many of the components that go into them, it is still dependent on European and American companies for some of the most complex chips. Already a UK based semiconductor designer ARM has suspended dealings with Huawei.

 

Most smartphones makers ÔÇô including Huawei rely on ARM processing architecture designs for the chips that power their devices.

Kebopetswe however maintains that Huawei will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.

Huawei Founder and CEO – Ren Zhengfei this week expressed confidence in the company’s business and capacity, saying the company had been preparing in anticipation of situations as of now, and it is well- prepared.

“We will certainly be able to continue serving our customers. Our production capacity is huge, and adding Huawei to the Entity List won’t have a huge impact on us. We are making progress in bidding worldwide.” Ren said.

The preparation he mentioned includes the company’s huge R&D investment and contingency plan. According to the 2018 EU R&D Investment Scoreboard, Huawei ranks fifth, with steady growth in its R&D investment. Huawei has a consistent Business Continuity Management System which has been certified by dozens of neutral third parties in Europe. The company has also been vigorously integrating BCMS into it global suppliers’ obligation.

Ren conceded that he expected Huawei’s growth to slow down, but expressed confidence in the company’s future prospects.

In the first quarter of 2019, Huawei revenue is reported to have grown by 39 percent over the same period last year. This rate decreased to 25 percent in April 2019, and may continue decreasing towards the end of this year. But the Chinese giant maintains that the US ban will not lead to negative growth or harm the development of the mobile phone industry.

In the meantime, as events unfold ÔÇô sparked mostly by the trade war between US and China, thousands of mobile phone users ÔÇôboth prospective and current are watching with keen interest with an intention to go The Huawei or Google way.

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The Telegraph November 25

Digital edition of The Telegraph, November 25, 2020.