PAT PILCHER … smells a rat!
And it’s in the coverage of the Trump, Google and Huawei debacle. In this article, Pat looks at the facts involved. And explains a likely outcome.
The mediascape has been awash with hysterical headlines ever since the news broke about the Trump administration forcing US tech companies to block access to their wares for Huawei. Headlines from supposedly rational and reputable media outlets.
“Huawei’s mobile business decimated!” screams one media portal.
Adding to the Trump, Google and Huawei noise and hysteria is an avalanche of opinions from “experts.” Opinions about open source, Apple. And of course MAGA, anti-Chinese bigots. Many give opinions strangely devoid of substance and facts.
If the situation is to be examined rationally, the following questions need to be answered:
– What does the Google ban mean?
– Who should you be mad at?
– What will the smartphone market look like in a post-Google/Huawei era?
This all came about because the Trump administration added Huawei Technologies to a trade blacklist. And enacted trade restrictions that will prevent US companies from doing business with Huawei. Without a special license from the US government. And let’s face it, Hell will probably freeze over before Trump’s administration grants anyone a license.
The move represents a significant uptick in the China/US trade war. It follows 12 months of orchestrated and largely unproven anti-Huawei rhetoric. Rhetoric that conveniently coincides with the ongoing trade spat between both China and the US.
“I would strongly suggest you get mad at the little orange man with his finger on the big red button in the Whitehouse”
Observing reactions to the news has been an interesting exercise. Some people are venting their anger at Google, others at Huawei. And a small (but vocal) number are also engaging in some distasteful China-bashing. Bizarrely, very few people are getting angry at the real cause: Donald Trump. The Trump administration made the decision to enact the ban. So If you want to rage about it, I would strongly suggest you get mad at the little orange man with his finger on the big red button in the Whitehouse.
The shrill declarations by ill-informed media outlets about the demise of Huawei’s smartphone business has probably played a significant role in whipping up hysterical consumers. But the reality is that Huawei can (and will) weather the Trump, Google and Huawei storm. Equally interesting, I wager the US may have shot its tech sector in the foot over the longer term.
Perhaps the most crucial point to note is that Huawei’s phone business is anything but dead.
“I wager that the US may have shot its tech sector in the foot over the longer term”
Huawei still has access to the Android open source platform (ASOP). And has a massive presence in the world’s biggest smartphone market – China. While ASOP does not have much in the way of Google apps, there are a vast number of third-party apps that can access Google services. Such as YouTube and Gmail. Many of these also do a better job than their Google counterparts.
The other important point to note is that the current crop of Huawei phones is unaffected. The effects of the ban won’t be noticeable until the next generation of Huawei phones launch.
So, what will a post-Google Huawei phone … look like?
Over the short term, the next generation of Huawei phones will probably come equipped with access to an alternative Android app store (there are a quite a few out there). Huawei has been quietly developing their own app store for some time for their Honour brand. Which sadly, isn’t sold in New Zealand. Google apps will most likely be replaced by third-party apps. Ones that will still be able to access Google services.
In a nutshell, Gmail, Drive, YouTube and other Google goodies should still work.
“The next crop of Huawei phones will look and work in a manner that is mostly identical to existing Android hardware”
Because Security updates are already handled by the phone makers and telcos, it’s also probable that Huawei will supply operating system and security updates based on ASOP. All told, it would be fair to assume the next crop of Huawei phones will look and work in a manner mostly identical to existing Android hardware.
So much for the hysterical headlines…
So will this approach work? Probably. Huawei has long sold versions of their phones without Google apps in the ultra-competitive Chinese market. So this is not their first Google-free rodeo.
It’s over the longer term that things could start to get really interesting.
After what happened to Huawei, it’s not outside the realms of possibility that other phone makers (most of whom are based in China or South East Asia) will start to eye US software and tech as a liability. Some may even see this as a risk to be avoided. Phone makers, like most good businesses, run on certainty and have an intense dislike of taking unnecessary risks.
Because of this, it’s not out of the realms of possibility that Huawei, Nokia, Xiaomai, HTC, Lenovo/Motorola, Oppo, Samsung, LG and other non-US phone makers could club together. And develop a standardised operating system, app store and services to limit damage from future political interventions such as has happened to Huawei.
Google had already attracted the ire of phone makers. By launching their own phones with preferential access to Android upgrades. Because of this, it’s possible that some phone makers will not need a lot of persuading to take a punt on a new open and non-Google OS/app ecosystem.
“Other phone makers (most of whom are based in China or South East Asia) will start to eye US software and tech as a liability”
This would not be good news for Google. Having just lost one of their biggest Android OEM customers – through no fault of their own – they’re probably hurting.
Summary: Trump, Google And Huawei
If the idea of an alternative operating system/ecosystem gains traction following the Trump, Google and Huawei debacle, Google’s Android business could become increasingly marginal. Because the only US Android phones of any consequence are those made by Google. It’s also possible that Android could end up being collateral damage from the Trump administration’s trade policies.
The US could also find that their own tech sector becomes increasingly isolated as China is forced to become more self-sufficient with hardware and software development. And as a direct result of this, less competitive. Especially if China seeks to develop a large international market for Chinese tech. At the expense of US tech.
So, watch this space!