A Huawei Update

A week ago we heard about the impacts of the US trade ban affecting Huawei. Since then, there has been quite a bit of reporting on it, including excellent work by XDA Developers and Ars Technica’s Ron Amadeo.

Here are some quick thoughts on what has transpired:

  • There is an argument going around that US developers cannot allow Huawei to distribute their apps. That is certainly true for any sort of bundled app distribution, as that would require a contract between Huawei and the developer, and US developers will be precluded from entering into such agreements. Similarly, US developers presumably are blocked from listing their apps directly in Huawei’s own “AppGallery” channel. However, the story gets a lot murkier for app distribution channels – if the channel is outside the US (and therefore not under US jurisdiction), can a US developer post apps there, and can Huawei deliver apps from that channel? We may find out in the coming months, if Huawei and Aptoide strike an arrangement.

  • Huawei seems to be moving forward with their own mobile OS. Reportedly, it has Android app compatibility, which I imagine would work a bit like how Chrome OS and Fuchsia run Android apps.

  • The US Department of Commerce has exempted Android security updates from the ban for 90 days. It remains to be seen if this exemption will be renewed.

  • One XDA author argues that Huawei cannot use the AOSP. The argument is that Huawei cannot enter into contracts, and so Huawei cannot agree to open source licenses. However, the extent to which an open source license is a contract is up for debate and would depend a lot on the venue of any copyright violation trial. From a practical standpoint, nobody can really stop Huawei from using the AOSP without such a trial, and that might take years to litigate. So, I am not worried about this aspect very much.

  • While I focused on the software side, the hardware side has been a mess, as many firms and organizations have indicated that they cannot continue to have Huawei as a partner or customer. This includes non-US entities like ARM. While Huawei appears to have some mitigation plans, their crumbling relationships would seem like they will be a major impediment for Huawei’s next generation of products, if not the current generation.

On the whole, this still feels like it is a negotiating tactic as part of US-China trade discussions. As such, while there will be short-term panic, over a bit longer time horizon this all might get cleared up… until the next trade dispute. Huawei, and perhaps others, may try to find ways to loosen their dependency on Android proper while still courting app developers. That will open up opportunities for some and will cause problems for others. Time will tell.


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