Blacklisted in the US, Chinese telecoms group Huawei is on a charm offensive at Europe’s biggest tech gathering, wooing app developers to embrace its own operating ecosystem.
Having this week announced plans to spend $40 billion on European supplies, after being shut out of buying US-made chips and technology, the company has been a prominent player at the Web Summit in Portugal.
Never mind US allegations that its products – especially in 5G networking – offer back-door access for Chinese spies – Huawei’s stand has pride of place at the pavilion entrance and its current chairman, Guo Ping, gave the keynote address during Monday’s opening night.
Huawei executives held an afternoon-long briefing for about 300 developers for smartphone apps, followed by a dinner for those who had the stamina to hear more.
The message – Huawei can offer in-house expertise and price reductions to developers who have to pay a hefty chunk of their revenues in order to sell games and apps on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS systems.
“We want to make sure that no developer feels left out or feels that the hurdle to enter our developer programme is too high,” said Huawei mobile services vice-president Jervis Su.
It is part of a strategy to lessen Huawei’s reliance on US supplies and technology, following the offensive launched on the company by President Donald Trump’s administration amidst a Sino-US trade war.
Huawei hotly denies it is in cahoots with Chinese intelligence, and has been building up a robust share of the next-generation 5G market in Europe and Asia.
Nevertheless, Huawei has for now lost access to Google services on its phones because of the US sanctions, and is working on an alternative operating system for a broad range of interconnected devices, called HarmonyOS.
Huawei, Guo noted, is investing $1.5 billion over five years on training programmes in universities and start-ups around the world and another $1 billion to encourage innovation among developers – all with a view to extending its market penetration away from Washington’s reach.
“5G upgrades our communication infrastructure and AI [artificial intelligence] provides us with the most powerful computing engines,” he told the Lisbon conference.
“However, the applications and software are what generate true value.”