Chipmaker ARM instructed all of its employees to immediately stop working with Huawei as it started the process of cutting off the Chinese conglomerate from its supply lines, according to an internal memo leaked to the British media earlier today.
The moved is described as a response to the ban issued by the United States administration last week, with President Donald Trump signing an executive order and a subsequent blacklisting of the world's largest telecom equipment maker that rendered it unable to continue using American technologies, both in terms of hardware and software. ARM told employees it's forced to comply with the order as well because its chip designs include a number of patented solutions originating from the U.S., without elaborating on the matter.
The Cambridge-based semiconductor juggernaut opted to cut ties with Huawei in spite of the fact that even the U.S. administration agreed to grant a reprieve to the Chinese company several days back, just as its American suppliers were starting to comply with the order. The decision is arguably as impactful as the fact the ban will eventually see Huawei left without a license to pre-load Google apps and frameworks such as the Play Store and Play Services onto its Android handsets and tablets sold in the West.
Namely, while the ban, once resumed, will also lead to Qualcomm cutting Huawei off of its tech supply pipeline, that particular effect initially wasn't expected to be too consequential seeing how the Chinese electronics giant has already been transitioning to in-house chips for several years now. The problem is, its semiconductor subisidiary HiSilicon never reinvented the wheel, i.e. the vast majority of its technologies, primarily chipsets for contemporary smartphones, are based on designs it licenses from ARM; designs that the British company said include some American tech and hence must be pulled from Huawei.
Without access to in-house mobile chips, Huawei will see its smartphone operations crippled in a matter of weeks once the ban is resumed, many industry watchers believe.
The Chinese company still appears to be largely unconcerned with recent developments, at least relative to the implications of Washington's latest blow against the company. Its very founder, Ren Zhengfei, downplayed the impact of the ban earlier this week, though he only did so after the firm managed to win a temporary business license from the U.S. government, hence resuming the most crucial of its stateside relations – the one with Google. Despite the setback, the industry veteran remains convinced Huawei will continue growing its mobile business in the long term, in addition to winning the race toward the global deployment of the fifth generation of mobile networks, maintaining the firm's technologies are too advanced for rivals to catch up with it in the next several years.
As for what this debacle means for existing owners of Huawei smartphones – not much. Security patches will keep coming, after-sales services won't stop operating, and the only near-term effect of the newest developments they may experience will be a lack of an Android Q update for their handsets.