Those “extenuating circumstances” could be a nod toward the troubles rival Chinese firm ZTE faced last year. The U.S. government banned American firms from selling parts and software to ZTE because the Chinese company violated sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Its ability to use Google’s Android was under threat, Reuters reported at the time.
In other regards, though, Huawei has been trying to wean itself off of American technology. The company has made a big play in semiconductors and now designs its own chips for its smartphones. However, some its laptops still use American components from companies like Intel.
A new operating system (OS) could provide some problems for Huawei, particularly if it is forced to stop using Microsoft and Google software outside of China. Inside its home market, Google services are blocked, including the Play Store. But internationally, Google’s app store is available.
“For Huawei, almost half of its smartphone sales come from China. So 50 percent of the business is anyways secured as Google mobile services — the Play Store is non-existent in China. However, having no access to Google Android and Play Store could affect the other half of the business quite a bit in the near-to-mid-term,” Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC on Friday.
“What Huawei has up its sleeves as an Android and Play Store alternative is not proven though it could have a capability of running third party Android app stores which could alleviate some concerns from the developers and apps perspective. However, users which are fully immersed into Google services might give … Huawei’s own OS a pass initially until (it has been) proven to run services and a user experience as good as Google’s,” Shah added.
Huawei has faced intense political pressure from the U.S. which has alleged its networking equipment may contain backdoors that could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. The company has repeatedly denied the claims, but intelligence experts who spoke to CNBC, were skeptical about Huawei’s assurances. They point to China’s national security laws which allegedly mean every domestic company is legally obliged to help the government with intelligence gathering.