The ever-widening trade rift between the USA and China has taken an ugly turn.
The US chip manufacturers and Google have been forced to comply with the US government’s ban on the supply of technologies to the Chinese telecommunications leader Huawei.
The ban is applicable on the hardware and the software including the Android operating system although the open source versions of Android will not be affected by this restriction.
It is obviously a source of concern for every user of the Huawei and Honor devices that run on the specific versions of Android and use Google Play Services for apps.
Nevertheless, at least for now, the users in Central Asia need not worry.
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As explained by the British newspaper Guardian, the Android OS used on smartphones and tablets is made of multiple layers of software.
User interface, which is the part users interact with, is called Emotion UI (EMUI) for Huawei or Magic UI for Honor are among the tailor-made versions of Android.
Google Play and the various Google apps (Gmail etc) are also part of the suite that has fallen under the axe.
Google said on Monday that the current users [of Huawei and Honor] will continue to get access to the app store and other Google services.
The new versions of Huawei and Honor phones may lose access to popular applications and services including Google Play, Maps and the Gmail app.
Huawei responded the same day that it would continue providing security updates and after-sale services for its smartphones and tablets. It did not clarify what the ban will mean for new Huawei phones.
A spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, Lu Kang, said Beijing would “support Chinese enterprises in defending their legitimate rights through legal methods”.
The users of Huawei and Honor phones in Central Asia are not likely to face any immediate interruption in service or deterioration in quality.
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The curtailment of partnership between Google and Huawei may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise.
In order to be prepared for any surprises, Huawei has been developing its own operating system since 2012. It is called Hongmeng, though it may have a different name when formally launched.
If Hongmeng can provide the range of features packed in the different versions of Android including EMUI and Magic UI, it will break the bear hug – it will slice through the current monopoly of Google on the smartphone software.
The American chip manufacturers such as Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcom have also announced to stop supplying the chips to Huawei. This will make it difficult for Huawei to keep producing technologically competitive devices in the immediate future.
However, as seen in the past, the Chinese could come up with their own versions of chips that could prove to be adequate substitute for the American chips.
Even though Huawei may not be able to meet its target of becoming the largest seller of smartphones by 2020, the long term prospects are not so bleak.
In fact, this could be the start of diversity in the personal communications devices and technologies that we have been waiting for.
The risk here is that Trump’s obsession with causing damage to China could be counter-productive. The chaotic isolationism has never been the recipe for success. The world needs to move on and it may move on without the USA. /// nCa, 21 May 2019