EMBATTLED CHINESE FIRM Huawei has given one of the starkest demonstrations yet of how the White House ban on trading with the US has hit it.
According to a report in The Information, Huawei and Google had joined forces to work on a smart speaker, running Google Assistant. The project was then scrapped after it became impossible to keep working together under the new rules.
The unnamed speaker was slated for release at IFA in Berlin, at the beginning of September, though whether it would have been available immediately is a different question given Huawei's propensity for announcing products before they're ready (Mate X, anyone?).
The smart speaker would actually have been Huawei's second - the first, AI Cube, doubles as a 4G router and uses Amazon's Alexa, but from the outset, Huawei said that it was open to working on a Google Assistant product. In the event, it was nearly nine months later that the AI Cube was finally, quietly released, initially by Three.
A Google/Huawei product in the current environment would ramp up the tension between China and the US. It's already on record that Google, Apple and Amazon all have contractors listening in to conversations, making it a more tangible threat than a simple "back door" if it was found that Huawei had access to audio as well.
Equally, it could be that the joint venture was a way of siloing Google Assistant functions from the design of the speaker, thus keeping Huawei at relative arm's length. We may never know for sure. In reality, phone hacking is a far more likely threat than smart speaker eavesdropping, but for the public the "always listening" threat is a lot more tangible.
The news comes as it was discovered that during the Nexus phone programme, Huawei was offered office space inside Alphabet Castle, raising questions of hindsight over whether the two companies were "too pally", with Huawei openly admitting that the work it did on the Nexus prepared it for world-beaters like the Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro. μ
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