The Huawei Ban has seen Huawei blacklisted in the US, money lost, and reputation soiled. A Huawei MateBook has been lost in the Ban, but sources say that Huawei’s Assistant-powered smart speaker with Google is another casualty in the political trade war.
“We worked on this project with Google for a year and made a lot of progress. Then everything suddenly stopped,” a Huawei employee said. In other words, Huawei and Google worked on a smart speaker powered by Google Assistant for a year before the Trump Executive Order in mid-May killed the project. At that point, Google let everything go and issued an Android license revocation against the Shenzhen-based OEM.
With the Android license revocation in place, Google no longer sees a Huawei smart speaker as a worthy project because, as of August 19th, Huawei will no longer be allowed to use Google’s Android — that includes Google’s voice command AI, Google Assistant. The Huawei smart speaker would have gone on sale worldwide, and sold online in the United States, as a way to help Huawei make inroads into this unfamiliar space. Huawei’s direct rival, Samsung, has its own Bixby-powered smart speakers in the works called Galaxy Home and Galaxy Home Mini.
Huawei’s canceled smart speaker with Google using Google Assistant shows just how closely Google and Huawei worked together in Android. Huawei released its first Android smartphone in 2009 in the “Ascend” series. Huawei and Google have been together since at least 2009 in Android. The Chinese Android OEM has also worked with Google on its Nexus 6P smartphone launched on September 29, 2015. As a licensed Android OEM, Huawei has worked on Android-powered smartphones for some near ten years now, releasing all of its flagships under Google’s Android umbrella.
The Trump Ban in mid-May put an end to that, as Google issued its license revocation just a few days after Trump issued his Executive Order and declared China’s Huawei on the US Entity List. At that time, all US companies were forbidden to do business and sell to Huawei, or buy from the company.
Trump relaxed his ban policy on Huawei after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, having received a promise from Jinping that China would invest in US agricultural products more than it ever had. Jinping said at one time that the ban against Huawei would have to be eliminated in its entirety before he’d agree to a truce of any kind with President Donald Trump.
Since Trump relaxed the Huawei Ban, Shenzhen’s Pride has said that it intends to stick with Android, that it doesn’t have HongMeng as an alternative in the wings. Huawei released its fitness tracker called the Huawei Watch GT with its own Lite OS platform powering it; now, according to FCC documentation, Huawei is on the verge of releasing new smartwatches powered by Google’s wearables platform, Wear OS (formerly Android Wear).
Google Assistant-powered smart speakers are on the rise in popularity, with a number of Android OEMs making smart speakers backed by Google’s impressive AI that has been beating out all others (Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Samsung’s Bixby) in knowledge studies, such as distinguishing generic and name brands of medication among other things.
With Huawei’s planned Google Assistant-powered smart speaker out of the cards, and with Huawei denied Android Q access, it appears as though Huawei’s own HongMeng OS is its only hope. And yet, Huawei officials continue to insist that HongMeng is only for Internet of Things (IoT) business solutions and that HongMeng is not ready for mobile devices.
All the while, we read of Huawei testing out HongMeng with fellow Android OEMs Oppo and Vivo. Additionally, Huawei requested that Google Play developers come to its app store, AppGallery, and develop apps for Huawei, a sign that the company has had its own Android alternative in the wings.
Sources say Huawei has had HongMeng on board for seven years, anticipating a future ban such as this. Huawei says that HongMeng is not ready for mobile yet, but it just may need HongMeng for mobile devices to keep other projects from going the way of its smart speaker in this current political climate.