The US Department of Commerce recently imposed denial of export privileges against Chinese smartphone and telecom infrastructure manufacturer ZTE. In effect, it’s a ban on the export of products and technology by companies to ZTE. As per a recent report by Nikkei Asian Review, Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek has halted supply of chips to ZTE after government directives.
The ban has caused widespread concern among Chinese manufacturers on the possible impact in the event of similar action on other companies. A South China Morning Post report terms this as China’s Achille’s heel. It is now reported that Huawei, one of the world’s leading smartphone and telecom equipment manufacturer has started working on a Chinese smartphone operating system for its devices.
It is reported that the software build by Huawei isn’t up to the same mark as Android, and hence has stayed in-house. With this development, Huawei joins Samsung in attempting an alternate mobile operating system. Samsung’s Tizen, which was the result of its partnership with Intel, following activities around MeeGo hasn’t been able to garner widespread attention.
According to the report, Huawei hasn’t launched its mobile OS yet as it doesn’t have as many apps as on Android. The report further states that the mobile OS is designed to work on tablets, PCs and smartphones. While there is no word on what the OS will be called, at an event in Beijing, Honor’s president Zhao Ming said “There is no doubt that Huawei is capable of doing it, but for now I don’t think it is necessary since we work very closely with Google and will continue to use its Android system.”
“It is a matter of capacity and necessity,” he added. Huawei also responded to the publication saying it “no plans to release its own OS in the foreseeable future. We focus on products powered by Android OS and adopt an open attitude towards mobile OS.”
Both Huawei and ZTE have been declared as threats to national security by the US government. And as Chinese firms are trying it hard to do business with retailers and carriers in the US, developing a completely new OS looks more like preparing for the “worst-case scenario.”
The primary driver for such a decision is the fact that Android, the world’s leading smartphone operating system is primarily an American technology, developed and maintained by Google, an American company. Since Chinese companies have maintained trade with states such as Iran and North Korea, both of which have been forbidden by US authorities, it is a matter of concern and looming threat for Chinese manufacturers.
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Currently, ZTE is the second largest telecom manufacturer in China after Huawei. In the US, it is the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer, and is currently worth $20 billion, according to a Reuters report. Similar to the Indian Government’s Make in India initiative to give a boost to local employment and manufacturing, the neighbor’s “Make in China 2025” envisions China to be the global leader in AI, robotics and telecommunications, and includes a plan to build the world’s largest 5G network, according to a SCMP report.