China’s Huawei can’t do business with US companies until May 2021 because it’s still a threat to national security

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Published: May 14, 2020 1:11 PM

Huawei was accused of spying for the Chinese Government and blacklisted by the Trump administration last year.

huaweiTrump administration still probably sees the Chinese company as a threat to its national security. (Photo credit: Reuters)

Huawei will continue to remain in the US Government’s “entity list” for another year, at least, since the Trump administration still probably sees the Chinese company as a threat to its national security. Huawei was accused of spying for the Chinese Government and blacklisted by the Trump administration last year, barring it from doing business with US-based companies. Companies in the US were similarly instructed not to buy telecommunications equipment from Huawei.

While the implications of such a “strict” trade ban are far-reaching, two key downsides for Huawei have been the ban on working directly with ARM and Google. Without due authorisation from the US commerce department, Huawei can’t access “all” ARM blueprints to build the silicon powering its smartphones and tablets, and also it can’t use Google’s Android in its “entirety”. While in the past, ARM has been able to come to its rescue, because ARM is a UK-based company after all, it’s known to use US-origin technology as well. ARM can’t sell that to Huawei. As for Google’s Android, we already know what that entails. Huawei can’t use the full commercial version of Android which includes Google apps and services including the Google Play Store. It can only use the open source version which is how its recently launched phones have been able to run Android.

Until recently, the US Government had been giving Huawei temporary reprieve, so it could for instance update its existing devices keeping them safe and secure. The last such reprieve window expires on May 15, 2020, and unless the Trump administration announces something soon, it would seem like the company may not be able to continue updating its devices any further. This could mean that a recently launched Huawei phone may not receive another update post May 15, 2020. The US trade ban, by extension, applies to Huawei subsidiary Honor as well.

Huawei has been hard at work on its own home-grown solution to Google Play Store, aka AppGallery. Huawei says it is already working with around 1.3 million developers globally to help port their apps “specifically”  for its AppGallery. The company has been offering billions of US Dollars in incentives to encourage developers to build apps for its platform. It hasn’t been able to pull US-based giants like Facebook, Netflix, and Zoom though — which is understandable. And while that’s still all fine and good, Huawei can’t guarantee an update to core Android for its devices, because that’s under Google’s control at the end of the day. A Huawei or Honor phone may be able to run many apps and services thanks to AppGallery, but without Google on-board a Huawei or Honor phone launched with Android Pie may not be updated to Android 10, not today, not ever. And that could be a problem.

Huawei has its HarmonyOS for when things take a drastic turn and looks like things will take a drastic turn come May 15, 2020. Whether or not, that will push Huawei to finally deploy its home-grown OS, is something only time will tell. But even if it does do that, selling it to customers outside of China will be easier said than done.

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