As the trade row between the United States of America and China simmers, there have been very many developments that it is hard for those of us who don’t often find themselves at the intersection of tech, business and politics, to follow.
One of those developments has been the circus around Chinese device maker Huawei.
The company, which is the second biggest maker of smartphones on the planet has found itself on the wrong side of President Donald Trump’s efforts to get the Chinese to agree to his trade deal (he has admitted as much).
Almost 2 weeks ago, we woke up on a Sunday morning to find the company dropped by Google as a licensed Android partner days after the US Department of Commerce put it on a blacklist that required American companies to seek special clearance before doing business with it.
Following Google’s lead, several other America-based companies like Qualcomm, Microsoft and others moved to sever ties with Huawei. Even others, like UK-based chip designer ARM and Japan-based electronics corporation Panasonic also cut off links with Huawei even though they’re not American companies owing to their reliance on American technology.
For a moment, at least on paper, the future looked grim for the embattled Chinese device maker who had set their eyes on being the number 1 smartphone vendor in the world on top of pioneering the upcoming 5G revolution.
Then, in an about-turn move, the US Department of Commerce allowed Huawei some reprieve by granting it a temporary 90-day license to operate in the US. This, it was argued, was to allow the company to provide updates to users of its devices while also allowing American businesses like telecommunications companies that have Huawei equipment to transition to other suppliers.
While that is so, the move may be behind the game of musical chairs that we are currently witnessing.
Following Huawei’s enlisting in the Department of Commerce’s so-called ‘Entity List’, several industry groups and associations that act as gatekeepers of various standards we have come to rely on that are headquartered or domiciled in the United States, removed any mention of the Chinese company from their websites. The SD Association, JEDEC, the Wi-Fi Alliance… Name them.
Now, quietly, one by one, they’ve been reinstating Huawei to their websites over the last few days with only suppliers who had announced or made known their plans to stop any engagements with Huawei maintaining the status quo.
Following their lead, Google has also done the same.
Listed on Google’s Android Q beta programme page on the Android developer website is Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro. The device had earlier been silently dropped from the site that lists all (except this one) devices that are currently trialling the next version of Android.
Just like there was no explanation given by either Google or Huawei for the disappearance of the Mate 20 Pro from the Android Q beta page, no explanation has so far been provided for its relisting.
With the current turn of events, Huawei is reportedly hard at work on its own Android replacement and is even filing trademark names in some markets.