HONG KONG: Google’s decision to partially cut off Huawei devices from its Android operating system has presented the Chinese tech titan with one of its most dramatic challenges yet: how to keep up with the competition if it cannot use the platform that powers nearly every other smartphone in the world?
It is a possibility for which the Shenzhen-based firm, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker by sales, has been preparing for years – reportedly since 2012 – by building an operating system of its own.
Huawei has acknowledged its existence, but the platform remains shrouded in mystery.
“We have prepared our own operating system. If it should be the case that we can no longer use these systems (like Android)… we would therefore need to be well-armed,” Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview published in March.
“That is our Plan B. But we would of course prefer to work together with the ecosystems provided by Google and Microsoft.”
That system could now become more important than ever to Huawei.
Washington last week imposed a ban on the sale or transfer of American technology to the firm – which could impact hundreds of millions of Huawei phones and tablets around the world.
Google has said it will comply with the US restrictions and bar Huawei from access to some core components of Android and its proprietary services.
While both Google and Huawei have reassured users that their phones will continue to function as normal, this could present major problems for Huawei, and apps on its phones could become unusable if it does not have access to code licensed by Google to phone makers.
And if the ban is not lifted, it could also run into trouble when the next version of Android is rolled out, because Huawei would not have the kind of access enjoyed by its rivals such as Samsung.
Its own platform, currently undergoing trials, is named “HongMeng” and “will gradually replace the Android system”, China’s state-owned Global Times said, citing other local media reports without more details.