The American pressure on Huawei is bearing fruit: thanks to a pincer movement, software and hardware, Huawei is on course to be sidelined in the West. And the Chinese manufacturer could even be technologically downgraded for the next generation of smartphones.
What may be the future of Huawei in the smartphone market, in the face of an America which is concretely seeking to bring it out? This is the question that must torment the staff of the Chinese brand, which has now been facing assaults from the United States for more than a year. Especially since the strategy followed by Washington seems to affect the activities of the Asian giant more and more significantly.
This is suggested by the latest update from DigiTimes, a site well informed on the state of production lines in China.
On August 28 and according to local sources, he reported that Huawei is slowing its pace of smartphone production, to prepare for an increasingly bleak horizon in Europe and North America – and this even though overall sales remain high. , thanks to a certain Chinese economic patriotism. Orders for components would thus have been revised downwards.
A huge pincer
Huawei's weakening in smartphones is the result of a pincer grip on both software and hardware.
At the software level, Washington has worked to prevent Huawei from accessing Google services, at least until 2021.
Concretely, Huawei no longer has access to the consumer version of Android, with the applications of the Mountain View firm (Gmail, Chrome, Maps, etc.) and access to the Google Play online store. Because of the place occupied by Google in the daily life of a Western mobile user, this can only encourage the public to look elsewhere – even if Huawei could offer an Android and smartphones disgusted. By rebound, other American applications (Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Netflix…) are also appearing on borrowed time on Huawei smartphones. Huawei has certainly responded by signing agreements with international alternatives, such as Qwant, Dailymotion or TomTom, but their aura is less strong.
On the material side, the situation seems just as desperate. During the first half of August, Huawei made it known that it was no longer able to produce its own Kirin chips, because these are produced by companies that need access to the technologies. patented by the Americans. " This could be the last year for the latest generation Kirin processors The boss of Huawei admitted in a conference.
" Unfortunately, in the second round of US sanctions, our chip suppliers only accepted orders until May 15. Production will end on September 15 He added, according to statements reported at the time by the Associated Press. " It’s a very great loss for us », He continued. But if the picture is already very dark, it may darken even more for years to come.
Huawei downgraded for the next generation of smartphones?
Because the containment put in place by the United States around Huawei is well on its way to depriving it of the next generation of microprocessors. Today, the most efficient smartphones have access to processors that can achieve an engraving fineness of 7 nanometers. However, with the next echelons of 5 and 3 nanometer engravings, Huawei risks being downgraded quite simply: no Chinese manufacturer is yet capable of building processors of this caliber.
There are only three companies that today position themselves on processors engraved under 7 nanometers: these are the American Intel, the South Korean Samsung and the Taiwanese TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company). Given Intel’s nationality and the commercial stakes for TSMC and Samsung, none will dare to defy Washington's injunctions to supply Huawei: the game is not worth the effort. Proof of this is, for example, with MediaTek, another Taiwanese company, which has made it clear that it will not go against the embargo.
For a 100% Chinese solution, the most plausible track for Huawei would be to call on the services of the Chinese founder SMIC (Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation. Only, they are very far from being at the level of Intel, TSMC or Samsung: its capacity to etch silicon chips is at a fineness of 14 nanometers, which is a gap of four years with the tenors of the genre. As for HiSilicon, Huawei's semiconductor subsidiary, it actually depends on TSMC for the manufacture of its chips and ARM, a UK company, for their design.Assuming HiliSilcon went ahead anyway and managed to produce chips and in sufficient numbers, the engraving fineness would only be 28 or 40 nanometers.
The other hypothesis that has existed for several weeks is that the American equipment manufacturer Qualcomm obtains a license issued by Washington authorizing it to supply Huawei. In this way, Huawei could recover semiconductors designed by TSMC thanks to Qualcomm. But this hypothesis seems decidedly fragile in the context of a presidential election in the United States, where China is one of the major subjects. It is doubtful that the current administration will soften its position by November 3, the election date, when the White House tenant himself is in contention.
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