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Slowly, slowly, Huawei is piecing together its alternatives to Google’s software and services, bedding down for a world where there can be no post-blacklist return to business as usual. And while the mood music from Shenzhen still suggests that the company would like nothing more than restoring Google on its new phones, the truth is much more complicated. The strategy in Shenzhen goes beyond phones, leveraging China’s huge investments in 5G and AI, looking at areas in which it can establish its brand beyond 5G network kit and consumer devices. At around the time of the Mate 30 launch last fall, Huawei also started talking up its new connected car platform—HiCar. And while this may have come across as an Android Auto (or Apple CarPlay) lookalike, compensating for the company’s loss of Google, that isn’t the plan. This is much more radical, a fundamentally different approach to the one taken by Google and Apple. Pitched at automakers as well as the drivers of their cars, this is API-level integration to car functions, linkages to cameras, fatigue and safety checks, even cloud-based services. All that atop the usual infotainment and navigation options. Now the rubber is about to hit the road on HiCar, quite literally, as Huawei looks to shepherd the tech onto countless cars from dozens of manufacturers. This is the year that HiCar becomes a reality and we will find out whether it is a viable option in itself, and how it battles Google (and Apple) apps in the auto space. If Huawei gets the strategy right, it will help fill some of the international smartphone-shaped gaps in its revenues, while millions of its users will stand to benefit. In the aftermath of the launch of the P40, its latest non-Google flagship, Huawei has been lauding the features of HiCar and its coming to market this year. The company has reportedly ensured that HiCar will reach its users en masse in 2020, shipping on as many as 120 different car models from 30 manufacturers. In the six months since the HiCar chatter began, we’ve seen Chinese automaker (and GM joint venture) Baojun become the first to launch a vehicle with the tech on board. The company says all future vehicles will get the update. The expectation is that many other manufacturers will follow this year—not just in China but overseas as well; according to Nikkei Asian Review and ChinaPEV, German giant Audi is among them. Audi has been approached for any comments on this. As I reported yesterday, May 8, Huawei is quietly using its balance sheet to fund investments in connected automotive technologies. Bringing together consumer OS expertise with advancements in silicon and cloud services, the Chinese giant has set itself the goal of becoming the “leading Chinese platform provider” in the space. Huawei’s newest business unit is Intelligent Automotive Solution (IAS), and it could become one of its most important. Automotive is at the very intersection of huge investments in AI, 5G, cloud, and IoT. That’s why Huawei’s competition in the space includes Apple, Google’s stablemate Waymo and Tesla. China is the world’s largest car market and will likely lead the world for next-gen autonomous vehicles as well. Huawei is well placed—right place, right time. There is more posted on OUR FORUM.

 

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