Huawei’s ambitions for the smartphone market have been dealt a serious blow according to leaked documents that suggest chipmaker ARM is suspending all activities with the beleaguered Chinese vendor.
Last week, the US Commerce Department prohibited American firms from doing business with Huawei, a move which means the company’s handsets will no longer receive updates for the Android operating system from Google or access to its popular applications.
However, the impact of that order is set to be far-reaching and could have even more disastrous consequences. The BBC has obtained internal memos ordering ARM employees to stop working on all Huawei contracts and cases to provide any support.
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ARM’s chip designs are used to power virtually every major mobile chipset, including those from Qualcomm and Huawei’s Kirin processors. ARM is based in the UK and owned by Japanese firm SoftBank, but many of its designs feature US-made technology.
This has led ARM to believe that working with Huawei would see it breach US trade regulations. The BBC also notes that this impacts ARM China, a joint-venture that aims to make ARM technology and localised support available in the country. ARM has a 49 per cent stake.
Huawei is not commenting on the reports, but an inability to use ARM technology in Huawei’s Kirin processors would be extremely damaging. Huawei has been preparing for a ban on US technology for some time, stockpiling components and developing an alternative operating system to Android, but the innovations afforded by ARM would be impossible to replace.
The upcoming Kirin 985 chip is unaffected, but Huawei would be unable to use ARM technology in future iterations.
Huawei has managed to build on domestic success by expanding into Western Europe in recent years thanks to a series of critically acclaimed devices. It is now the world’s second largest manufacturer, recently overtaking Apple, despite being excluded from the US.
ARM has been approached for comment.
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