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Huawei faces loss of some Google services

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Those who follow the industry closely say that it is unclear what damage, if any, will be suffered by Huawei

FILE PHOTO: The Huawei logo

Google said yesterday that its basic services on Huawei smartphones will still function following US sales curbs, but the Chinese tech giant faces the possible loss of other features and support.

The announcement highlighted the growing damage to Huawei from Washington’s order. The company has said until now US accusations that it is a security threat have had little impact on sales outside the United States.

Huawei Technologies Ltd, which uses Google’s Android operating system in its smartphones, said it would continue to provide security updates and service. It gave no indication which map, photo or other services they might lose.

The Trump administration’s order targets China’s first global tech brand and ratchets up disputes with Beijing over technology, trade and cyber-security.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, said it is complying with and “reviewing the implications” of the requirement for export licenses for technology sales to Huawei, which took effect last week.

Google allows smartphone manufacturers to use Android and its basic services for free. But transfer of hardware, software or services to Huawei or technical interaction would be restricted by the US order.

That would strip Huawei phones of Google maps and other services that require direct support. That might hurt Huawei where consumers can pick other brands that carry the full suite of Google features.

Those who follow the industry closely say that it is unclear what damage, if any, will be suffered by Huawei.

Ben Wood, Chief of Research at CCS Insight, said it’s unclear what Google told Huawei, but any disruption in getting updates to software would have “considerable implications” for its consumer device business.

“Google has publicly stated that its App Store, Google Play, and security updates from Google Play Protect will continue working on existing Huawei devices,” Wood said yesterday. “However, until we have a clear understanding of what exact measures Google has decided to take it is impossible to second guess the impact on future devices.”

The US government says Chinese suppliers including Huawei and its smaller rival, ZTE Corp, pose an espionage threat because they are beholden to China’s ruling Communist Party. But American officials have presented no evidence of any Huawei equipment serving as intentional conduits for espionage by Beijing.

Huawei defended itself yesterday as “one of Android’s key global partners”. The company said it helped to develop a system that “benefited both users and the industry”.

“We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally,” said a company statement.

A foreign ministry spokesman said China will “monitor the development of the situation” but gave no indication how Beijing might respond.

The government said it would take steps to protect the rights of Chinese companies abroad following last week’s announcement but has given no indication what it might do.

The US order took effect on Thursday and requires government approval for all purchases of American microchips, software and other components globally by Huawei and 68 affiliated businesses. Huawei says that amounted to $11 billion in goods last year.