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Trade war

Huawei eyes fall release of mobile OS in case of Android ban

US blacklist will not harm finances or 5G plans, CEO Ren Zhengfei says

Google has suspended certain business with Huawei Technologies in response to a U.S. Commerce Department order blacklisting the Chinese smartphone maker.   © Reuters

GUANGZHOU -- With the prospect of Google denying access to updates of its Android operating system, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei Technologies is preparing to release its own operating system as early as this fall.

A Huawei operating system will be ready to be commercialized between this fall and the spring of 2020, said Richard Yu Chengdong, head of the company's smartphone unit, according to Chinese news accounts Tuesday. The operating system will reportedly be compatible with the company's broad lineup, including tablet devices and personal computers.

"Huawei will do and can do its own operating system," CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei said Tuesday, during a wide-ranging interview with China Central Television and other Chinese media outlets at the company's Shenzhen headquarters.

Google has confirmed it will comply with a U.S. Commerce Department order to suspend some transfer of hardware and software to Huawei, which includes technical support for Android and other Google applications and services. Huawei will continue to have access to the open-source version of Android. On Monday, the Chinese company won a 90-day temporary license across the board, allowing support for existing networks and devices.

Many believe Huawei's addition to the Commerce Department's "Entity List," which effectively bans U.S. businesses from supplying parts and components to named companies, will drastically undermine its finances -- a viewpoint that Ren rejects. "We still have a very large mass production capacity, and the U.S. ban will not cause negative growth of our company, and will not harm the development of the industry," he said.

Ren added that the 90-day temporary license "doesn't mean much" to Huawei. "We've already gotten ready" for a full-out ban, he said.

The CEO pointed out that Huawei was under entity-level control by the U.S. government a year ago. "The current practices of American politicians underestimate our strength," he said.

Ren reiterated his position that the company can operate with or without American semiconductors. "We can also make the same chips as U.S. chips, but it does not mean that we will not buy them from the U.S.," he said. Furthermore, Huawei has built up a stockpile of chips, Ren reminded reporters. "We will not easily exclude and reject U.S. chips, we all need to grow together, but if there are supply difficulties, we have backups."

Regarding the impact of U.S. enforcement actions on the company's tech ambitions, Ren said, "Huawei's 5G is definitely not affected." When it comes to the next-generation communications technology, "others will definitely not be able to catch up with Huawei in the next two or three years," he predicted.

Amid the trade tensions, Ren maintains respect for Apple, noting that his son favors the iPhone over a Huawei handset. "My family are still using the iPhone," he said. "Apple's ecosystem is pretty good ... You can't be narrow-minded to think that if I love Huawei I have to use Huawei mobile phones."

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