has been dealt a series of massive blows this week that could halt the company’s global consumer tech ambitions. At first it was Google pulling Huawei’s Android license, then came an Intel and Qualcomm ban, and finally the news that ARM had halted all business with Huawei. Assuming the executive order that caused these issues isn’t rescinded, Huawei will now have to create its own operating system and processor designs to be able to build working smartphones and laptops in the future. Huawei appears to be ready and prepared to at least tackle the software side, but I think it’s doomed to fail outside of China.
Huawei has been calling this a “plan B” during recent months, as the US has been increasingly more hostile towards the company ahead of the current trade restrictions. This plan involves offering an alternative to both Android and Windows that has reportedly been under development for years. Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business, told CNBCthis week that the replacement operating system will be ready by the fourth quarter, with a version available outside China by the second quarter of 2020.
Not much is known about Huawei’s Android and Windows alternative, but it appears to be based on the open source version of Android (AOSP) and will include Huawei’s App Gallery store. This is Huawei’s alternative to Google’s Play Store, and every manufacturer that doesn’t license Google’s version of Android has to create its own app store or bundle one from a myriad of fragmented options. Huawei already has experience here, as the company’s phones run a forked AOSP-based version of Android without the Play Store in China, and Huawei’s been bundling the App Gallery on phones outside of China since early 2018.
Outside of China, phones running alternatives to Android and even those using AOSP haven’t fared well. Mozilla tried with its Firefox OS for years before giving up in 2015, Canonical pushed Ubuntu phones that never went anywhere, and Microsoft famously tried to create a third mobile operating system with Windows Phone. Even Samsung, once a big threat to Google’s version of Android, has all but given up on its Tizen operating system for phones, using it to power the company’s smartwatches and TVs instead. And let’s not even talk about what happened to BlackBerry.
All of these phone OS alternatives have failed for many different reasons, but chief among them is a common thread: competing with Google is very difficult. Google’s search market share is estimated at around 90 percent worldwide, with competitors like Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and Yandex all making up single digits. This search market share has helped Google create and control a suite of apps like Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Docs, and many other popular web services.
If you create a phone running the open source version of Android, it immediately comes without access to these key Google apps. As a manufacturer, you’re creating a device without the apps consumers demand in Europe, the US, and elsewhere.
We as Batswana have to ask our selves the question, was the move to have Huawei in Botswana a good one?
Yes infrastructure would improve but at what cost. Data privacy? Personal information being leaked back to china? Instead of leaping first, we should always weigh the costs to the benefits. Huawei has grown exponential in Botswana, I guess only time will tell.