Chinese Tech giant Huawei marked a milestone in its ambitions to become the world’s leading smartphone maker this week, launching its first device powered by HarmonyOS, an operating system developed in-house.
But Andy Purdy, chief security officer of Huawei USA, said the company is still hoping for a reunion with Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system.
Huawei has been banned from using Google’s OS since the U.S. Department of Commerce placed the Chinese firm on a trade blacklist in 2019, barring American companies from selling components to it, citing national security concerns. The Trump administration doubled down on export controls last year, banning Huawei and its suppliers from using American technology and software.
The restrictions dealt a significant blow to Huawei’s consumer facing business, which relied on Google’s Android operating system to power its devices. The company developed its own OS in response, rolling out the software for the first time, to power the Mate X2 foldable smartphone.
U.S. pressure has dramatically altered Huawei’s global footprint, both on the consumer side and in its carrier network business. Once the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer behind Samsung, Huawei’s shipments fell 42% in the past three months of 2020. That put the firm further behind Samsung, Apple (AAPL) and Xiaomi.
Huawei has moved aggressively to increase its self-reliance to counter U.S. sanctions. Its chip design arm HiSilicon Technologies ramped up production of the high-end Kirin mobile processors in the immediate aftermath of Washington’s restrictions. But a ban on the use of American technology, has limited those efforts significantly.
The company is reportedly in talks with several Chinese chipmakers for potential investments that are likely to fill the gaps in its semiconductor supply chain.
Filling the software void left by Google’s absence has proven to be even more challenging. While Google’s services are blocked in China, its use of Android allowed Huawei to attract users in regions like Europe, prior to U.S. sanctions.
The firm’s HarmonyOS works across devices, and features the AppGallery in place of GooglePlay. It has more than 500 million active users but lacks major names like Facebook (FB) and WhatsApp, which is not available for direct download.
“The sooner we can make decisions to go back to Google, the better,” Purdy said.