Google suspends some business with Huawei after Trump administration’s trade blacklisting

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Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services, except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source has told Reuters.

Key points

  • Huawei will lose access to Android updates and will only be able to use the public version of the operating system
  • The next Huawei smartphones will lose access to Google Play, Gmail and YouTube apps
  • Google’s decision follows the US Government’s move to add Huawei to a trade blacklist

The suspension is a blow to the Chinese technology company, which the US Government has sought to blacklist around the world over allegations it poses a security risk.

Holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps, however, will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google, a Google spokesperson said.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” the Google spokesperson said.

“For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

The move could hobble Huawei’s smartphone business outside China as the tech giant will immediately lose access to updates to Google’s Android operating system.

The next version of its Android smartphones will also lose access to popular services including the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps.

“Huawei will only be able to use the public version of Android and will not be able to get access to proprietary apps and services from Google,” the source told Reuters.

Dieter Bohn, editor of technology website The Verge, tweeted that he had confirmed Google had cut direct business activity with the company, but said the immediate implications for Huawei users were not clear. 

The Trump administration last week added Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to a trade blacklist, immediately enacting restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the company to do business with US counterparts.

The US Commerce Department later said it was considering scaling back restrictions on Huawei to “prevent the interruption of existing network operations and equipment”.

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It was not immediately clear whether Huawei’s access to mobile software would be affected.

The extent to which Huawei will be hurt by the US Government’s blacklist is not yet known as its global supply chain assesses the impact. 

Chip experts have questioned Huawei’s ability to continue to operate without US help.

Details of the specific services affected by the suspension were still being discussed internally at Google, according to the source.

Huawei attorneys are also studying the impact of the blacklist, according to a Huawei spokesman.

Huawei was not immediately reachable for further comment.

Representatives of the US Commerce Department did not immediately comment.

A woman browses her smartphone as she walks by a Huawei store.

Huawei will continue to have access to the version of the Android operating system available through the open source licence, known as Android Open Source Project (AOSP), available for free to anyone who wishes to use it.

There are about 2.5 billion active Android devices worldwide, according to Google.

But Google will stop providing Huawei with access, technical support and collaboration involving its proprietary apps and services going forward, the source said.

Contingency plan in place

Huawei has said it has spent the last few years preparing a contingency plan by developing its own technology in case it was blocked from using Android. 

Some of this technology is already being used in products sold in China, the company has said.

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Eric Xu, rotating chairman of Huawei, struck a defiant note in anticipation of retaliatory actions by US companies when speaking earlier this year. 

“No matter what happens, the Android community does not have any legal right to block any company from accessing its open-source licence,” he said.

Popular Google apps such as Gmail, YouTube and the Chrome browser that are available through Google’s Play Store will disappear from future Huawei handsets as those services are not covered by the open source licence and require a commercial agreement with Google.

But users of existing Huawei devices who have access to the Google Play Store will still be able to download app updates provided by Google.