How badly will Huawei's smartphone business be affected by Google's response to US placing Huawei on "Entity" list? (Huawei loses access to Google proprietary apps and services but is still be able to run the Android Open Source license (AOSP).
In simple words, Google has pushed Huawei to a corner where Huawei has to transform itself into an Apple-like software ecosystem.What is the software ecosystem of Apple like?They have their own operating system (iOS) based on BSD OS, development SDK(Xcode), development language(Swift), compilers (LLVM), their own frameworks or runtime APIs (Foundation, Webkit etc). These different layers of software and toolchains are called “software stack”.An example of the Apple software stackWhat’s special about Apple is that they own the full stack of the software layer from applications to the specialised hardware. It has huge advantages because they can be optimised vertically across different layers. Many specific optimisations can be performed on their own hardware. That’s why Apple’s application runs smoother despite its hardware spec is not as cutting-edge as the Android flagship phones.What is the software ecosystem of Android like?Now let’s look at the mess of the Android software stack. In contrast, Google Android took a very different approach compared to Apple. It wants to support Android applications on all different hardware and devices. Its layers are laid “horizontally” but not vertically-integrated like Apple.Application layerThe variety of target hardware capability drives Google to use virtual machines (Dalvik VM or ART) and just-in-time (JIT) compilation to support their applications. Therefore the Android applications you downloaded from the Google Play app store are actually “intermediate” byte codes.When you run your app on your android phones, your Android runtime needs to detect what kind of your hardware is and prepares all the resources it needs. Then they can perform online translation from the intermediate code to the native machine code in a “virtual machine”. The virtual machine is like a “condom” if you know what I am saying.Framework and library layerThose apps were written according to the APIs provided by the application frameworks defined by Google or third-party libraries graphics and database. These runtime libraries are updated at each patch of the Android OS, such as Android Pie or the next Android Q.The irony is that only a small proportion of the devices hold the latest version of Android. And what’s worse each update of their runtime API could be only compatible on a small range of Android devices.Therefore, even if Google stop cooperation with Huawei for the next Android Q release. The latest updates still account for a small fraction of Android devices. And the majority of people don’t care which version they use. And Huawei can still use the legacy version of Android if they are really desperate.Kernel layerFor the bottom layer, the Android runtime and virtual machines need to interact with the operating system or the Linux kernel to access the hardware capabilities such as process, memory, network, and file system management. And these are pretty-much Linux kernels which are open source because they hold GPL licences. So everyone including Huawei can use this service.What would Huawei do to survive?After knowing both software stacks from the two biggest software ecosystems from Apple and Google, what would Huawei do to survive?I mean, to survive, not meant to beat Google. This is really not what Huawei wanted. And Google, alleged to be an international company with a motto called “Don’t do evil”, snapped the finger to kill a company who does nothing wrong. Yes, they can follow US laws. But their actions should stay within the US not internationally.Compared to the ban in the semiconductor supply chains, building a full software stack is not a difficult job technically for any big company. The main problem for Huawei is how to attract and sustain its software ecosystem and its user base.Let’s have a look at what Huawei has done so far.A three-year preparationHuawei software engineers have been actively committed upstream many patches to the Android open-source projects. They are already widely applied in the whole Google ecosystem. But the most advanced patches are firstly applied within the EMUI custom Android OS Huawei EMUI - Wikipedia.Here are some examples showing how Huawei can get ahead of Google in terms of software development.Example 1: The Flash-friendly File System (F2FS) was firstly developed by Huawei and it was integrated into the EMUI 5.0 system and its Mate 9 phones. After the patches, those Android applications on EMUI no longer lagging. The lagging was mostly due to the latency in flash systems and they optimised away. Later they are applied to other Google Android kernels.Example 2: Huawei proposed GPU Turbo framework and applied to use on its mobile phones. The framework can further accelerate gaming performance on EMUI phones. Their performance seems to beat Samsung and Google Pixel.EMUI 9's GPU Turbo 3.0 now supports Fortnite, Minecraft, 17 more gamesExample 3: In April 2021. Huawei announced their first “all stack” java compiler ——The Noah Ark Compiler. This compiler can statically compile java programs into native arm binaries. And the application binaries can only run on Huawei devices. They finally remove the “condom”, if you know what I am saying.To support the Ark Compiler and static java programs, Huawei has to rewrite all the framework layers and runtime libraries. It seems Huawei engineers have already completed this task and they will be released on EMUI 9.1. That means they have no dependence on Google frameworks.Since it is an ahead-of-time compiler, the compiled applications are highly optimised on Huawei phones. The Ark compiler improved system runtime performance by 24%, response time by 44% and third-party application performance by 60% compared to standard Android applications from Google.Huawei announces Ark compiler: With EMUI 9.1, third-party application operation smoothness increased by 60% - Huawei CentralNow you might already be aware that what Huawei has been secretly doing for years. Why is it called “Noah Ark Compiler”? Don’t you know the meaning behind it?Example 4Since 2021. Huawei has been actively cooperating with Google to develop the new open source operating system Fuchsia OS. Note that this is a pure open source project: Github Fuchsia. I’ve heard from readers that Huawei has its private fork of Fuchsia and tested on its devices internally.Huawei begins testing Fuchsia OS on the Kirin 970-based Honor PlayHuawei’s Android replacement sounds a lot like the mysterious Google OS that might replace AndroidPerhaps later on Huawei would rename this Operating System into its proper name “HongMeng” 鸿蒙 later sometime. Hong Meng - Wikipedia Hong Meng is a character in the Daoist text Zhuangzi and a metaphor for the "primordial world, primeval chaos" in Chinese creation myths.It is said that this OS could be scaled on multiple platforms including mobile phones, PC, tablets and smart TVs. And it will be released this autumn.A fully-fledged Huawei mobile OS under your noseOver the past three years (2016–2019), Huawei has been secretly replacing Android components and framework one by one on all the phones who use EMUI. If you are using a Huawei phone reading this post, I would tell you that your phone is becoming less and less Android.For example, if you are reading this post from the Quora app. On Pixel phones, it might use libraries and frameworks that are provided by Google. But if you are reading it from Huawei’s phone in EMUI, the same Quora app is linked to libraries that are provided by Huawei’s implementation. And you won’t notice the difference. And it is perfectly legal.Yes, EMUI is no longer a mere Android custom theme now, they will grow into a fully fledged operating system under your nose.Now a large proportion of Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, OnePlus phones use the EMUI interface. They might have different names and themes but their lower layers will converge and coordinated into a single standard.As all the Chinese phones use the same OS with an estimated 780 million users, they are large enough to support a custom OS and drive Chinese developers to develop an ecosystem completely without Google. And the OS would continue to develop and “forked” from Google’s master repository. This new forked OS would represent the collective standard of the Chinese software ecosystem and continue to spark more innovations.All these preparations are done by those Chinese software engineers who spent 9 am to 9 pm six days per week working styles (996). For the past three years, they have been working so hard to fill the gaps. We should never underetheir efforts.Now just imagine a parallel universe where China naively allows Google and Facebook services into the Chinese market since 2021. The Chinese software ecosystem would have been already slaughtered by the USA now.Can Huawei still survive in the overseas market?So from the above section, we know that Huawei can defend itself well in the Chinese market with zero Google influence. How about the overseas market? In 2021. there are around 46% of Huawei phones sold outside China and all their customers need Google services, otherwise, they would leave Huawei.Yes, the overseas market is still very important for Huawei. But note that for the extreme case when Huawei loses all its overseas market, it can still survive by purely relying on the Chinese market.Solution 1: Use other country’s lawsHuawei can make use of each country’s anti-monopoly law to restrict Google. We all know that the EU is so pissed off by Google. Since 2021. the European Union has launched three separate antitrust investigations into Google for violating the EU's competition laws due to its dominant position in the market. Google has been found guilty of antitrust behaviour in cases related to Google Shopping and Android and has been fined over €6 billion.After the ruling, Google is required not to bind Google services on any android phones. Users in the EU have their own choice to install Google services. And this creates an opportunity for Huawei to use its legal weapons and sue Google if Google attempts to forbid Huawei to use Google services on the Huawei OS. This applies to other parts of the world, especially India.Solution 2: Add India into the equationAnother possible solution is to outsource all its software stack to Indian partners. Let an Indian company design, customise and package their own OS on Huawei hardware. Invest in an Indian company who design a customised EMUI specifically for hundred millions of Indian users.Just like the UC Browser in India, why do Indian people chose to use UC browser over Chrome browser? And Huawei can use the same strategy to bind Huawei Indian OS and let an Indian company do the customisation.Now if Google forbids this Indian company to use Google services on Huawei platform, Huawei can use its legal weapons to sue Google in India as well. It is not the USA anyway. India has its right to protect its domestic company for its made-in-India initiative.Solution 3: BridgingAfter resolving the right to use Google services in India and Europe, Huawei gains the legal right to give its users their options to intall Google services on their own. Then it is pretty easy for Huawei to resolve the technical problems of bringing Huawei services and Google services.No Google Play Stores? That’s fine. Use Huawei stores. Please note that the Google Play store is just a storage of apps. Huawei can pra similar store by mirroring and recompiling all the apps, or asking developers to submit apps. Note that this is perfectly legal for most of the countries. Because the ownership rights belong to the third party developers but not Google.Especially for those users in developing countries, from my observation, most of them use cheap Chinese phones using the EMUI OS. And they don’t bother to root the device to change to typical Android distributions provided by Google. The world is not just about the 1 billion developed English-speaking countries. It is much wider, how about the rest 6 billion people out there?Solution 4: PricingAccording to the Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, he said that:The current problem for Huawei is that the company makes too much money. Our profit margins are high. But we couldn’t lower our price because that would crush our competitors. We need competition. Without competition, it would destroy us eventually.For the overseas market, Huawei can actually significantly reduce their mobile phone prices.When you go to a mobile phone shop, there are two phones on sale: the latest Huawei Phone with Huawei OS for $400, and the latest Samsung Phone with Android for $1000. Samsung phone seems to be a bit faster than Huawei. Huawei phone is not installed with Google service but it tells you how to install it through third parties.Now, as a customer, please tell me which phone would you buy?