On Monday, Beijing woke up to a new, and far more dire trade war reality for its flagship telecom company: Google which in 2005 bought Android, whose software has since become the most popular mobile operating system in the world, said it would stop supplying Huawei with Android software in order to comply with a US government ban.
Speaking to the FT, Tim Watkins, head of Huawei in Western Europe, said the company had been “astounded” by the ban, but said Huawei was “as well prepared as we could have been."
Perhaps... yet even so analysts said being cut off from Android was what the FT dubbed "a hammer blow" to a company whose smartphone business has been soaring in recent years, and rose 50% year-on-year to 59 million in the first quarter, while its rivals Samsung and Apple dropped 10% and 23% respectively. In all of 2018, the company shipped some 200 million smartphones, most of them preloaded with Android software.
“Huawei seemed to have unstoppable momentum but with one single blow this could undermine their ambition to become the world’s largest smartphone maker,” said Ben Wood, principal analyst at CCS Insight. Another telecom consultant quoted by the FT, said that the move by Google was the clearest sign yet that Huawei’s partners are “abandoning ship”. He predicted that Washington would begin to “really squeeze the supply line properly now”.
Even without further squeezing, Huawei is in deep trouble: the world’s second-largest smartphone maker is already facing the prospect of being shut out of the world’s most popular smartphone operating system after being placed on a “banned entity” list by the White House, which forbids US companies to supply it with technology.
But with China reportedly being the party that instigated the collapse in trade negotiations in their late stage, surely Beijing, and Huawei was prepared for this contingency?
According to a separate report by the FT, Huawei said "it will be able to roll out its own mobile phone operating system “very quickly” if its smartphones are cut off from Google’s Android software."