In 2019, the tech world was greatly agitated by the case between Huawei and the United States. As we take stock of the past year, this soap opera obviously deserves our attention.
Huawei has very big ambitions for the future and intends to put in the means. Evidenced by its ecosystem project, its concept of flagship store or its incongruous Ox Horn campus. However, these are obviously not the first things that we will remember from the Chinese company in the year 2019 which has just ended. No, in 2019, Huawei will have been talked about above all – despite itself – because of the United States.
Huawei found itself entangled in a geopolitical conflict between the two global superpowers, China and the United States. This is an incredible story that has quickly become the most exciting soap opera to watch in recent months. Fascinating by its complexity, by its impact on users and by its duration. At the time of taking stock of 2019, we could not miss this story.
Since the end of May, when the administration of President Donald Trump decided to ban any American company from collaborating with the Chinese giant, Huawei and its subsidiary Honor can no longer preinstall Google services and applications on their smartphones. And since the end of May, few weeks have passed without this affair resurfacing.
It must be said that Huawei faces an unprecedented situation that the company would gladly have dodged. Let's try to summarize briefly. While it is engaged in a trade war with Beijing, Washington attacked the undeniable champion of its adversary.
Leader in the telecommunications sector and regular number 2 in the smartphone market ahead of Apple, Huawei is obviously one of the leading figures of Chinese international influence. However, the United States accuses the firm of wanting to use its network of 5G antennas in order to spy on American citizens on behalf of China.
Huawei's crisis management: a fascinating and complex case
Huawei has denied all of these accusations en masse since the start of the case, but the soap opera continues to blow hot and cold. Indeed, the situation sometimes points to a beneficial relaxation, sometimes to an aggravation of the conflict. Most of the time, the main impression is that the negotiations are stalled between the parties involved.
Impact on users
Regarding 5G, Huawei is doing everything it can to continue to forge partnerships with various countries and operators so that they adopt its infrastructures, despite pressure from the United States on its allies. It is especially on the smartphone side that we can already observe the consequences for users. At least, the impact in this sector is being felt directly while it will no doubt take longer to assess the state of the telecommunications market.
If the case still excites today, it is also because Huawei is determined not to lose the battle in Europe. Remember that the brand has never really managed to integrate into the American market while its users in China have been used for years to use devices without Play Store, without Google services and without several applications from American publishers . It is therefore on the Old Continent that she must save face at all costs.
This is how the Huawei Mate 30 Pro was marketed in France. A premium smartphone very convincing in terms of hardware … but deprived of a slew of applications to which we are however very accustomed.
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The brand promises to work on viable alternatives and announces comprehensive and service-rich Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) for 2020 as well as a more supplied AppGallery application store better suited to each region. Today, succeeding in selling smartphones without Google services in Europe seems to be worse than an impossible mission. However, it would be presumptuous of us to already bury the company's ambitions.
And in 2020?
We’ve mentioned the future of Huawei and the smart one will be the one who will guess rightly the outcome of this case. What is certain is that the soap opera is not confined to the year 2019. 2020 will most likely have its share of turnarounds and unexpected decisions. Already in February, we will know whether the stay granted by the United States to American companies will be renewed or not (it probably will be).
Then, we meet in Paris at the end of March for the presentation of the P40s to see if Huawei's self-denial will start to bear fruit or not.
2020 will also be the year when first conclusions can be drawn about the long-term effects of this embargo. For now, Huawei’s financial health remains very strong thanks mainly to a Chinese market where it is ultra dominant, but the firm is not immune to negative fallout.
Chinese company would benefit from incredible publicity stunt
More interestingly, it will be fascinating to see if the US embargo will forever be an obstacle to Huawei's development or if, in an ultra-optimistic projection, the company succeeds in turning this sanction into a formidable opportunity. With its HarmonyOS system and Android experience with HMS, the brand may have the tools to create a solid alternative to the worlds of Google and Apple.
If, in the coming years, the ecosystem of Huawei were to grow despite the double reign of Android (with Google services) and iOS on smartphones, the Chinese company would benefit from a boost incredible publicity. Again, this is an extremely optimistic scenario, but it is a safe bet that it will be played out and replayed in the minds of Huawei executives.
Obviously, the year 2020 alone will probably not be enough to get a definite idea on the issue. One even imagines rather that Huawei will pass it to make the round back while waiting for the storm to pass … to finish on a shipwreck or on the return of good weather.