Huawei has been planning to build its own operating system for its devices for a while now. Recent events have made that effort more important to the company then ever.
For the past few years, Huawei has joined other electronics and mobile device manufacturers in using Google’s Android operating system for its mobile devices, helping the Android OS become the most widely used OS in the world. But Huawei isn’t just any company, they are the second largest mobile device manufacturer in the world, after Samsung, and enjoys a dominating 20% market share in China, one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing markets for consumer electronics.
It sells more phones than Apple, but doesn’t enjoy the same kind of brand recognition that its Western rivals do, especially since it has to rely on Google’s operating system to power those devices, making them just another Android device maker in a market full of android devices. So it’s no surprise then that Huawei has been considering introducing its own OS to run on its devices.
The Problem with Using Other People’s Stuff, American Technology Edition
There is nothing at all wrong with licensing a product or technology from another company. The entire global technology industry around the world is built on the idea, given the digital—and therefore copyable—nature of the product; and there hasn’t been any reason to object to this arrangement since it’s been working perfectly fine until now.
But everything is always working fine right up until the moment that it isn’t, and the drama around Huawei has been unsettling for many people, companies, and even nations. Until the recent maneuver by US President Donald Trump, which he took to get China to make trade concessions by effectively threatening to shoot a Chinese corporate hostage, no one in the world would have thought that there was any reason not to use US technology if they had the chance.
But watching the brazenness of the US administration’s treatment of one of the largest companies in the world, putting the jobs of nearly 200,000 employees in 170 countries at risk, has struck a nerve with a lot more people than I think President Trump realizes, or cares about. The rest of the world is savvy enough to know that using US technology comes with strings attached, but it is still shocking to watch the stroke of an American president’s pen turn one of the largest non-Western companies in the world into a economic pariah
After all, there is nothing subtle about the US using American technological penetration into foreign products as a digital Trojan horse for American trade and foreign policy leverage, and this course of action will only engender further bitterness and distrust of American businesses overseas.
Tellingly, the people who appear the most surprised by Trump’s actions against Huawei seem to be American businesses, who–having previously praised the president’s handling of economic matters–suddenly realize that their very lucrative business arrangements overseas are entirely dependent on Donald Trump’s opinion of the country in question.
As for security concerns about Huawei and the Chinese government, they might be entirely justified, but there is only one country that has been proven to use the technology it helped spread around the world to conduct surveillance on the citizens of other nations, the US. So no one can blame consumers overseas for choosing a Chinese product over an American one–especially if the American one comes packaged with the ability to bankrupt your homegrown industries whenever the US doesn’t get its way–and no one can blame Huawei if it decides that it was going to chart its own course independent of US tech.
So while Huawei may be taking a beating right now, it isn’t a fatal one, and with its own OS already in the works before the current crisis, Huawei now has every incentive to accelerate its plans with nowhere to go but up from here.