During the opening keynote at CES Asia, held in Shanghai this week, the world was watching as Huawei had the stage with an opportunity to state its case in the escalating trade war between the USA and China. Huawei’s Chief Strategy Office, Shao Yang, kicked things off with a personal story before outlining the company’s plan to see what many think is a dangerous time for the Chinese tech giant, saying it is “a most exciting time for Huawei”.
Yang said that when he started at the company almost 20 years ago, most of his family and friends didn’t know anything about the company and, more or less, dismissed his job in conversations. But, more recently, the same people have been asking him if he’s OK and coping with the stress. It was an interesting way to add a personal touch to this trade war.
The feeling within Huawei, Yang said, is that Huawei’s work is not yet done and there is renewed enthusiasm for the company’s mission to be a leader in both infrastructure and consumer products. While the tech giant’s march to the number one position in smartphones has been slowed – it expected to topple Samsung later this year – it predicts it will still reach that milestone. It will just be a little later than expected.
Yang outlined the company’s new strategy, based around individuals interacting with a number of key end-point devices such as smartphones, computers, wearables, smart glasses, TVs and cars. In turn, those devices would access a large number of different services.
He called this the company’s one to eight to n strategy. One person connecting to eight key classes of endpoint devices accessing a multitude of services.
Underpinning this are a number of different strategies ranging from the design and fabrication of its own chips, exemplified by the Kirin family of processors through to software and the development of cross-manufacturer standards.
As well as making its own hardware in a number of categories, Huawei plans to partner broadly providing chips, hardware and cloud connectivity and software. Yang talked about HiLink and an Ability Gallery that would allow the firms that make TVs, small appliances, whitegoods, air conditioners and other potentially connected devices to leverage Huawei’s platforms rather than creating their own.
While introducing Yang, CES Asia boss Gary Shapiro said that when elephants fight, the ground gets trampled. Or, in a trade war, everyone loses because of the collateral damage. While the rhetoric on one side of the trade war is loud, Huawei is pointing to a future where it wants to allow the market to decide.
Shapiro chose his words carefully when he noted that the CTA, the organisation that puts on CES Asia, favours a rules based global economy with free trade and no tariffs. And it’s a message Huawei reiterated.
With a strong focus on Asia, a market that dwarfs the United States of America in its sights, Huawei is playing a long game. But there was still lots of uncertainty when talking to people on the show floor when it comes to Huawei’s short-to-medium-term prospects.
Anthony Caruana attended CES Asia in Shanghai, China as a guest of CTA.