Last week, things started turning south for Huawei when Google announced that access to Android and the Play Store would be curtailed as a result of a trade ban imposed as part of a trade war between the United States of America and China. Google has been joined by a number of other tech companies. But while Google was a high profile loss, others are likely to be of far greater significance.
Along with Intel and Qualcomm, Huawei has been blackballed by the SD Association and the WiFi Alliance. While the loss of a major software partner is a big deal, Huawei has the resources to build its own operating system and its popularity in China means it has a strong chance of creating a platform that can replace and compete with Android.
And the loss of access to the SD card specification can be worked around. After all, the need to add memory isn’t a big deal if you load a device up with enough inbuilt storage. And the market has spoken, to some degree, given the popularity of iOS devices.
But losing access to WiFi is a a major blow. It’s pretty hard to make a device that can connect to wireless networks if you’re not allowed to access the standard that’s used.
Similarly, UK-based chip designer ARM has told staff to stop doing business with Huawei. Which effectively locks Huawei out of chip design that works with most of the mobile software around.
All of this highlights the interconnected nature of global supply chains and how the unilateral actions of one country can disrupt international companies. Huawei finds itself in a very challenging position, effectively cut of from access to standards that underpin the design of modern smartphones. And this was all triggered by the US government adding Huawei to a list – something that could happen to any company the US government takes a dislike to.
For now, if you have a Huawei device, it looks like it will still get security updates to Android and access to the Play Store. But Huawei’s long-term future in under a cloud unless a deal can be entered into or the US government relaxes its policy.