Trade wars: Google pulls Android from Huawei, deals blow to mobile business

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Published: May 20, 2019 7:40:01 AM

Alphabet Inc.’s Google will cut off the supply of hardware and some software services to Huawei Technologies Co. to comply with a Trump administration crackdown on the Chinese telecoms giant, a person familiar with the matter said.

Google’s move had largely been anticipated. (Reuters photo)Google’s move had largely been anticipated. (Reuters photo)

Alphabet Inc.’s Google will cut off the supply of hardware and some software services to Huawei Technologies Co. to comply with a Trump administration crackdown on the Chinese telecoms giant, a person familiar with the matter said.

Huawei will only be able to access the public version of Google’s Android mobile operating system, the world’s most popular smartphone software. It won’t be able to offer proprietary apps and services from Maps and search to Gmail, said the person, who requested anonymity speaking about a private matter. That will severely curtail the sale of Huawei smartphones abroad, though it remains a sliver of the Chinese company’s business.

Google’s move had largely been anticipated. The Trump administration on Friday blacklisted China’s largest tech company — which it accuses of aiding Beijing in espionage — and threatened to cut off the U.S. software and semiconductors it needs to make smartphones and networking gear. Blocking the sale to Huawei of critical components could cripple its operation, depress the businesses of American chip giants from Qualcomm Inc. to Micron Technology Inc. and retard the rollout of critical 5G wireless networks worldwide.

Huawei is said to have stockpiled enough chips and other vital components to keep its business running for at least three months. It’s been preparing for such an eventuality since at least the middle of 2018, hoarding components while designing its own chips, people familiar with the matter said. But its executives believe their company has become a bargaining chip in ongoing U.S.-Chinese trade negotiations, and that they will be able to resume buying from American suppliers if a trade deal is reached, they said.

Huawei, the world’s largest smartphone brand after Samsung Electronics Co., was one of a select few global hardware partners to receive early access to the latest Android software and features from Google. Outside of China, those ties are critical for the search giant to spread its consumer apps and bolster its mobile ads business.

The Chinese company will still have access to app and security updates that come with the open-source version of Android. Reuters reported the moves earlier. “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google representative said, without elaborating.

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