Trump Forces Google To Block Huawei

America is coming down hard on Chinese telco Huawei. PAT PILCHER reports on its plans to ban Google and Android from Huawei smartphones.

 

According to news agency Reuters, the Trump administration has forced Google to suspend all business with Huawei. As of today, all software and technical services from Google (except for the open source version of Android) will be unavailable to Chinese telco giant.

“All software and technical services from Google will be unavailable to Chinese telco giant”

While the world awaits official comment from Google and Huawei, social media is ablaze with speculation on what this could mean for the company. A common theme emerging is that the move could do considerable damage to Huawei’s smartphone business outside of China, where Google’s services have long been unavailable).

The reality is that much of this won’t happen overnight, but will become apparent when the next tranche of Huawei Android-powered smartphones goes to market. While these can run an open source version of Android, they won’t have Google Play, the Gmail app, Google Music, Android Assistant and YouTube.

“They won’t have Google Play, the Gmail app, Google Music, Android Assistant and YouTube”

The move by Alphabet subsidiary, Google, comes after the Trump administration placed Huawei onto its “entity list”, which in effect blocks the sale or transfer of American technologies to Huawei without a US Government issued licence. The move effectively forces Google to suspend nearly all activities with the Chinese tech giant.

Shortly afterwards, the US Commerce Department announced they had wound down some of the restrictions – so that US telcos using Huawei equipment could continue to operate.

Given the sheer complexity and many moving parts in any phone manufacturer’s business, the outcome of this for Huawei is yet to be fully known. Huawei New Zealand was unable to comment as they are awaiting an official statement from their Shenzen HQ.

“Google will no longer give Huawei access to technical support and  security updates”

It isn’t all doom and gloom though. Huawei will have access to the open source version of Android, known as the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), but it is expected that Google will no longer give Huawei access to technical support and collaboration apps, services and security updates in the future. This is likely to mean that Huawei will install third party apps to access apps and while the Gmail app wont be included on any Huawei phones, there are a multitude of equally capable, if not better mail apps for Huawei to choose from that will still be able to access Gmail.

Huawei has also had a contingency plan in place for several years for just this event, and to this end, they have prepared their own apps, and according to some rumours, even a Google-free O.S. The apps are said to be already in use in Huawei products sold in China.

So, is it curtains for Huawei? Probably not. While Google apps including Gmail, YouTube and Chrome will disappear from future Huawei handsets, workarounds will be likely from non-US developers via forums such as XDA-developers. Perception is most probably Huawei’s single biggest enemy right now.

“Perception is most probably Huawei’s single biggest enemy right now”

Longer term, the move by Trump could create significant problems for Google as other non-US companies fill the vacuum. Then there is the not so inconsiderable issue of how other phone makers may react. Will they continue to use Google apps despite knowledge that by doing so they are leaving themselves open to being targeted by the US government?

The smart money could be for Huawei and other non-US handset makers to club together and agree upon a standardised and compatible open source platform/smartphone ecosystem. If this were to happen, it’d severely hobble Google and limit the effectiveness of Trump to target their businesses.

“Existing owners of Huawei handsets will still have access to Google Play and can download and install app updates”

For existing owners of Huawei handsets, the situation is a non-issue. They will still have access to Google Play and can download and install app updates. Longer term, however, operating system security updates that get handled by phone makers and telcos could be unavailable.

Huawei will need to put some deft footwork into place to limit the damage of this insanity from the US, including educating customers that they are still very much in the hunt.

 

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