Update [20190520 0936hrs]: Responding to the developments, a Google spokesperson told us that the company is “complying with the (US Govt) order and reviewing the implications. For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”
Huawei has been denied access to some of Google’s services. This includes the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source, Reuters reported on Sunday quoting a source familiar with the matter.
The shocking move was made after the US Government added Huawei on the so-called Entity list, a trade blacklist which bans the Chinese tech giant from doing business with US companies with prior US government approval.
“Huawei will only be able to use the public version of Android and will not be able to get access to proprietary apps and services from Google,” the source told Reuters.
This will undeniably make it challenging for Huawei’s smartphone business to move forward with its future product releases outside of China.
This week, Honor — an entity under Huawei — is scheduled to launch the Honor 20 Pro in front of a global audience in London. While the Google ban may have little impact on the Honor 20 Pro, Huawei will lose access to updates to Google’s Android operating system for its future products. This includes crucial services like Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube.
However, the source told Reuters that the specific details of the suspension are still being discussed internally at Google.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the U.S. Commerce Department said it was considering scaling back restrictions on Huawei to “prevent the interruption of existing network operations and equipment.” It was not immediately clear whether Huawei’s access to mobile software would be affected.
Existing Huawei mobile devices may not be affected
While news of the suspension can be seen as a huge blow to Huawei, existing Huawei devices will still operate as normal with no restrictions to Google apps like Gmail, YouTube and Play Store, and the company will continue to have access to Android via the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) which is available for free to anyone who wishes to use it.
Where the restriction will hurt Huawei is in the customisation of the Android platform for its devices as Google will stop providing Huawei with access, technical support and collaboration involving Google’s proprietary apps and services going forward, according to the source.
What about Microsoft?
Huawei also makes laptop computers as part of its vast product portfolio and these computers run on Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Much like Google, Huawei will also have to collaborate closely with Microsoft for the customisation and optimisation of the Windows with its computers.
While Google has made a move to deny access to some parts of its technology — hopefully temporarily — it is not clear whether Microsoft will follow suit.
What will Huawei do?
Huawei may already have a contingency plan for such a situation. It is said that the company has spent the last few years preparing for such a situation by developing its own technology including building its own operating system in case it is blocked from using Android.
Some of this technology is already being used in products sold in China, according to Huawei.
China has been a practical proving ground for Huawei where most Google mobile apps are banned. This created an opportunity for local developers like Tencent and Baidu to provide alternatives to Google apps.
The recent restriction could very well be a platform for the Chinese tech company to launch their Google app alternatives on a global stage.
We’ve reached out to Huawei and Google for comment on the matter and will provide updates if a response is provided.