Huawei and Google were reportedly working on a Huawei-branded smart speaker before US President Donald Trump imposed a ban on the Chinese company. The collaboration between the two companies was suspended in May and Huawei planned to launch the speaker at IFA in September. The Google Assistant-powered speaker is said to be aimed at markets outside China. Huawei was even hoping to sell it in the United States. The report shows that the two companies share a close partnership than previously known.
“We worked on this project with Google for a year and made a lot of progress. Then everything suddenly stopped,” a Huawei employee told The Information. After US imposed a ban on Huawei, all the major US hardware and software vendors were restricted from working with the company. The ban was imposed citing national security concerns but Trump has partially lifted the ban. The report claims that Huawei also discussed how to make its smartphones compatible with Android Auto.
After the US sanctions came into effect, the discussions between the two companies were halted. Since May, Huawei’s interactions seem to have been limited to meetings or calls. These meetings are said to be accompanied by lawyers to ensure that communications are in compliance with the sanctions. Huawei is the second-largest smartphone vendor in the world and has grown significantly in the past few years. It has also become an important ally for US tech companies, including chipmakers.
While Trump has partially lifted the ban, the business relations between Huawei and US tech companies is not expected to be the same. The Chinese networking giant is being viewed as a security threat and has also been accused of stealing trade secrets. A Huawei engineer, who worked on the Nexus 6P in 2016, added that “Google engineers are very talented in software design. We asked many questions and learned a lot.”
Huawei launched its AI Cube smart speaker powered by Amazon Alexa at IFA last year. But the product is considered to be a failure. With the Google Assistant-powered speaker, Huawei might have had a better chance to succeed. Huawei CEO Richard Yu told the publication that sanctions created a challenge for his business.