Last week, the US made a number of moves against Huawei, and we’re already starting to see the effect. Following the listing of Huawei on the Department of Commerce Entity List – which specifies those companies which are considered a risk to the US national security – companies in the US have begun implementing that decision.
Listing on the DOC Entity List prevents a listed company from buying from US suppliers. In the case of Huawei, and its smartphone business, this means that it loses access to buying from Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, which is very much a US company.
Reuters cites a source close to the matter which claims that Google will “immediately” cease business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware and/or software products. This means that the Google Play Store, Play Services, and collaboration within the Android operating system itself will no longer be available to Huawei.
Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware and software products except those covered by open source licenses… Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will immediately lose access to updates to the Android operating system, and the next version of its smartphones outside of China will also lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail app.
Huawei will continue to have access to the version of the Android operating system available through the open source license that is freely open to anyone who wishes to use it. But Google will stop providing any technical support and collaboration for Android and Google services to Huawei going forward, the source said.
From the looks of it, this won’t affect existing devices, at least not immediately; the Play Store and Google applications will continue to work on those devices, including the recently released Huawei P30 Pro.
Eventually, existing devices may be impacted, as they may lose access to updates to Android, including the update to Android Q coming soon. Huawei could theoretically update its code from the AOSP core, but there’s no guarantee that existing devices would retain compatibility with the Play Store going forward, as those proprietary libraries wouldn’t be available.
Future devices, though, won’t be so lucky. Specific details of the implementation of this move are still being thrashed out within Google. However, this move deny Huawei access to anything Android related except for AOSP code – which is publicly available, and free. Future Huawei devices, assuming they’re based on Android at all, wouldn’t have access to the Play Store, or any of Google’s own apps (which are, let’s face it, extraordinarily popular on Android).
The only thing we can say for sure, though, is that this move will have a devastating impact on Huawei’s consumer smartphone business. Android is what makes those smartphones, and an alternative OS would be too risky, too unknown and (likely) too poorly received to be considered a viable alternative. Even if Huawei did come up with a viable OS alternative, losing access to Google services and apps would almost certainly be a nail in the coffin.
We’ve approached Huawei for comment, but owing to the early hour, we don’t expect one yet. We will update this story when it comes.
Update 20/05 08:40am: The Verge reports that it has confirmed the suspension of Huawei’s licence to use Android and Google services effective immediately.