Huawei CEO: We can still be No.1 without Google

Huawei CEO and founder Ren Zhengfei has expressed confidence that his company can become the world’s leading smartphone despite being barred access to software and apps by Google.

During an interview on CNN Business on Tuesday, Ren was asked whether Huawei can still become the world’s top smartphone without Google.

In response he said: “I don’t think that would be a problem… it will just take more time.”

Huawei, a Chinese company, is currently the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker and was on track to overtake Samsung as the No. 1 smartphone seller this year, until it landed on a US trade blacklist.

The blacklist bars US companies like Google (GOOGL), Intel (INTC) and Broadcom (AVGO) from selling to Huawei unless they obtain a government license to do so.

While announcing the ban the Donald Trump-led government claimed that Huawei products pose a national security risk. The company has since denied the allegations.

Some US companies, such as Microsoft (MSFT), received licenses last week from the US Commerce Department authorizing limited business which doesn’t pose a significant risk to national security or foreign policy interests. The department also said that some companies have been denied licenses.

Ren told CNN Business that Google has neither been denied a license, nor has it yet received one. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Huawei has said repeatedly that it would prefer to work with Google if possible. But it is working on a “large scale” backup plan, Ren said.

Huawei has been developing its own operating system, called Harmony, as well as an app store. But Huawei has just 45,000 apps available for download. That compares with about 2.8 million in the Google Play Store, according to market data company Statista.

Ren said that the United States is still the most powerful country when it comes to innovation, and no one — including China — can overtake the country for “decades to come.”

But he suggested Washington may inadvertently help the rise of competitors if it continues to place restrictions on who US companies can trade with.

If Huawei can’t work with US suppliers, “we will have to resort to alternatives. If those alternatives become mature, I think it’ll become less likely to switch back to previous versions,” Ren said.

“[It] is a critical moment for all of us, I hope the US government can consider what’s best for American companies,” he added.

Huawei’s business has proven broadly resilient this year, despite the trade blacklist. When the company reported earnings last month, it said revenue increased 24% in the first nine months of 2019 compared to the same period a year earlier. Soaring smartphone sales in China helped.

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