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Huawei has a bold Plan B should tensions affect its software relationships

Huawei uses the Google Android operating system on its smartphones and Microsoft’s Windows for its PCs, but as relations between it and the U.S. continue to deteriorate, the Chinese company has said it has begun working on an alternative just in case it cannot continue to use Google and Microsoft’s software. Speaking to Germany’s Die Walt newspaper, CEO Richard Yu says Huawei has prepared its own operating system, calling its possible use, “Plan B.” Yu said Huawei’s preference was to continue working with Google and Microsoft.

This is not the revelation it first appears to be, as rumors about an alternative operating system from Huawei have circulated for at least a year, while development has apparently been ongoing since 2012. In April 2018, sources told the South China Morning Post about such a project, saying at the time the operating system (or systems) would be suitable for smartphones, tablets, and personal computers. The increased attention at that time came due to rival smartphone brand ZTE’s U.S. ban, and now there are likely concerns the same thing could happen to Huawei.

Huawei already uses its own software instead of choosing software made by Google. The Huawei Watch GT smartwatch uses Huawei’s Lite OS rather than Google’s Wear OS, which the company said was not capable of meeting its energy efficiency goals. However, it does not come with access to Google Play — a situation almost certain to be repeated on any Huawei-made smartphone operating system. Additionally, its own EMUI user interface covers Android on its phones already — so visually there are some differences — and Huawei phones released in China do not have Google services installed.

Tensions between Huawei, the U.S., and several other nations come from concerns over security, with the U.S. in particular concerned Huawei devices and network hardware may represent a risk. There is currently no indication Huawei’s relationships with Google or Microsoft will end, but U.S. lawmakers put pressure on Google to “reconsider” its partnership in 2018. Google said it has agreements with many manufacturers, but does not provide any special access to data, and all have privacy and security protections.

Richard Yu responded to claims in the Die Welt interview, saying such things were “not technically possible,” and that the company would not let it happen in the first place. He went on to say the accusations are politically driven. Huawei will launch its 2019 flagship smartphone, the P30, in Paris, France next week, and is currently one of the world’s top three smartphone manufacturers by shipments.

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