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How the Huawei ban will affect enterprise mobility

The U.S.'s ban of business purchases of foreign telecommunications products, largely aimed at Chinese vendor Huawei, has major implications for mobile IT admins around the world.

In May 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that gives the federal government authority to prevent U.S. organizations from buying telecommunications devices and equipment from foreign manufacturers.

This executive order is widely linked to Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company. One of the major repercussions of the ban is that Google revoked Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.'s license to run Google's Android OS on its new mobile devices.

The exact details of how the Huawei ban will affect current Huawei devices are unclear, but new devices won't have access to the Android OS or the Google Play app store. Huawei is developing its own OS to prepare for a future without Android, but the OS isn't released at this point and faces an uphill battle for adoption.

In this Q&A, Roberta Cozza, analyst at Gartner, discusses the implications of the Huawei ban for mobile device admins.  

For organizations that have Huawei devices or have a deal with Huawei as an OEM, how are they going to approach this?

Roberta Cozza, analyst, GartnerRoberta Cozza

Roberta Cozza: A lot of the details are still in flux, but for organizations in this situation, it's critical to make a plan for any number of outcomes. Existing devices may still have access to the security patches and other updates that Google puts out. Future devices won't have this access. But even with existing devices, it's unclear where the line will be drawn.

I think this poses a key risk for any organization with connections to Huawei devices. Google has taken Huawei off the list of Android Enterprise Recommended vendors, so this looks pretty serious. Ultimately, organizations have to plan for an alternative device vendor. This ban is really critical because nothing will be guaranteed [for new Huawei devices] -- not security patches or new OSes or anything. It's pretty bleak for Huawei without access to Google Android.

In the best case scenario, where this ban is lifted tomorrow and everything goes back to the way it was, does the fact that the ban happened in the first place shake the confidence of enterprise Huawei customers?

Cozza: I think the confidence will definitely be shaken, and, even with a formal agreement in place, the customers will look at Huawei totally different. This is going to depend on location. In other geographies [outside the U.S.], an agreement could be good enough to get things back to where they were before the ban.

It's pretty bleak for Huawei without access to Android.

Outside the U.S., Huawei has built up the trust of their brand and their products. They are highly adopted in the Western Europe market, for example. The user confidence would be shaken, but things may be more stable if the U.S. and China come to an agreement that seems solid for the future.

It's very complex, and we don't know the nature of an agreement that they might come to about the timeline and the access Huawei would have to Google services. It's hard to say exactly, but I think things could somewhat return to normal under the right circumstances.

If the Huawei ban continues indefinitely, how would organizations handle that dilemma of choosing between Android and Huawei moving forward?

Cozza: Huawei has a significant market share of mobile devices, and that means lots of organizations would have to make this decision. Organizations might have an agreement with Huawei about exclusive devices deals, but I'm sure part of that agreement is that Huawei would have to ensure a certain level of enterprise-grade security and features on the devices. If [Huawei] cannot deliver on that agreement without access to Android, then organization will have to decide what the most feasible route is moving forward.

In that scenario, I think most organizations will drop Huawei and go with a different OEM. Organizations might have developed a mobile application, for example, that requires integration with some native Android apps or services. 

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