Huawei has reportedly reiterated claims that it is working on its own mobile operating system as a fall back in case of further problems between itself and the US government. The company’s top mobile division executive, Richard Yu, says that the measure is effectively a ‘plan B’. That seems to strengthen earlier comments from Huawei indicating that it doesn’t necessarily want to be forced to switch over from Google’s widely popular Android OS.
The comments are not without reason
Huawei's decision to reaffirm its efforts to build out a new operating system is not surprising, following more than a year of back-and-forth between the world's second largest Android manufacturer and US authorities. The country has repeatedly called out Huawei as effectively acting as a front from Chinese government spying, going so far as to threaten diminished cooperation with allied nations that choose to use the company's networking infrastructure for 5G.
The Chinese tech giant doesn't enter into that fray, which now includes a lawsuit against the country, with its own hands clean either. Huawei executives have been caught blundering into espionage using tactics more fitting for a spy thriller than the real world. Additionally, the US is currently attempting to extradite and prosecute another executive recently arrested in Canada for allegations related to trade violations and fraud.
The most recent development in Huawei's bout with the US centers around a comparatively mundane string of statements made by founder Ren Zhengfei against US security policy and more directly against current US President Donald Trump. Mr. Ren -- whose daughter is currently being held at the request of US authorities --criticized the policies and practices being enacted and encouraged by the US as both frivolous and more symbolic than genuinely effective.
Nothing new here but tensions are growing
As suggested above, the newest statements from the company aren't necessarily anything new. Instead, they serve as a reinforcement of previously made announcements and may represent a fundamental shift in how seriously Huawei is taking matters.
Prior to its reiteration, Huawei had been rumored to be testing an alternative to Android OS -- built and maintained via an open-source project by US-based Google. At various points over 2018 and leading into 2019, those rumors were both denied and confirmed, leading to some confusion about its plans but that no longer seems to be the case.
Marked by multiple statements pertaining to the OS, Huawei appears to recognize that tensions between itself and the US over of its alleged ties to the authoritarian Chinese government are not becoming less prominent. Even as the handset maker continues to gain new ground in the Android market against top contenders Apple and Samsung, the chance that it will be entering more deeply into western markets is shrinking.
If relations deteriorate further, it stands to lose access to Android OS entirely due to the fact that it's headquartered within the US. If that does happen, lacking an alternative would leave the company in the undesirable position of either having to negotiate terms with the US on an unequal footing or losing the progress its made in the mobile market.