Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

Huawei Mate 20 X (5G) is pictured at the IFA consumer tech fair in Berlin, Germany, on September 5, 2019. (REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo)
Updated 19 September 2019

Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

  • Hit by US sanctions, Huawei's Mate 30 will not be allowed to use Google’s Play Store
  • Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.

BERLIN: Chinese tech giant Huawei launches its latest high-end smartphone in Munich on Thursday, the first that could be void of popular Google apps because of US sanctions.
Observers are asking whether a phone without the Silicon Valley software that users have come to depend on can succeed, or whether Huawei will have found a way for buyers to install popular apps despite the constraints.
The company has maintained a veil of secrecy over its plans, set to be dropped at a 1200 GMT press conference revealing the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro models.
Huawei, targeted directly by the United States as part of a broader trade conflict with Beijing, was added to a “blacklist” in Washington in May.
Since then, it has been illegal for American firms to do business with the Chinese firm, suspected of espionage by President Donald Trump and his administration.
As a result, the new Mate will run on a freely available version of Android, the world’s most-used phone operating system that is owned by the search engine heavyweight.
While Mate 30 owners will experience little difference in the use of the system, the lack of Google’s Play Store — which provides access to hundreds of thousands of third-party apps and games as well as films, books and music — could hobble them.
Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
The tech press reports that this yawning gap in functionality has left some sellers reluctant to stock the new phones, fearing a wave of rapid-fire returns from dissatisfied customers.
Huawei president Richard Yu said at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair this month that his engineers found a “very simple” way to install the hottest apps without going via the Play Store.
Huawei could offer its own app store in a preliminary version, setting itself up as a competitor to the dominant Apple and Google offerings, observers speculate.
Over the longer term, the company could build out a similar “ecosystem” of devices, apps and services as the Silicon Valley companies that would bind users more closely to it.
The world’s second-largest smartphone maker after Samsung, Huawei earlier this month presented its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS, a potential replacement for Android.
The Mate 30 will not yet have HarmonyOS installed.
But it could make for a new round in the decades-old “OS wars” between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS, then Android versus Apple’s iOS.
Meanwhile, Eric Xu, current holder of Huawei’s rotating chief executive chair, has urged Europe to foster an alternative to Google and Apple.
That could provide an opening for Huawei to build up Europe’s market of 500 million well-off consumers as a stronghold against American rivals.
“If Europe had its own ecosystem for smart devices, Huawei would use it... that would resolve the problem of European digital dependency” on the United States, Xu told German business daily Handelsblatt.
He added that his company would be prepared to invest in developing such joint European-Chinese projects.


SoftBank to invest $40bn for new Indonesia capital

The new capital is to be built on the island of Borneo, where the Kutai National Park is known for its rainforests and its population of orangutans and other primates. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 January 2020

SoftBank to invest $40bn for new Indonesia capital

  • Son joins Abu Dhabi crown prince and former British PM in steering committee for city

JAKARTA: Japan’s SoftBank is offering to invest $30 billion to $40 billion in the development of a new Indonesian capital, an official said Friday.

The billionaire founder and chief executive of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, hinted at partnering with the Indonesian government to fund the project when he met President Joko Widodo last week in the capital, Jakarta.
Son and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been included in the steering committee to be led by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to oversee the construction of the new capital city on the island of Borneo.
Indonesian Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan told a news briefing that SoftBank was offering $30 billion to $40 billion, though it was not immediately clear what project the Japanese conglomerate would invest in specifically.
“We have not yet decided how they would invest, it could be for education, a research center or hospital development,” Pandjaitan said. He said he will meet Son in Davos and Tokyo later this month to finalize the plan.
After meeting Widodo last week, Son told reporters that he was interested in supporting “a new smart city, the newest technology, a clean city and a lot of artificial intelligence.”
Widodo announced last August that Indonesia’s capital will move from overcrowded, sinking and polluted Jakarta to a site in the sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo, known for rainforests and orangutans.

BACKGROUND

The capital’s relocation to a 256,000-hectare (632,580-acre) site almost four times the size of Jakarta will cost an estimated 466 trillion rupiah ($34 billion). The government is set to begin the construction later this year.

The capital’s relocation to a 256,000-hectare (632,580-acre) site almost four times the size of Jakarta will cost an estimated 466 trillion rupiah ($34 billion). The government is set to begin the construction later this year.
Investors from Asia, the Middle East, the US and China have shown interest in developing the city, Pandjaitan said.
Jakarta, with 30 million people including those in the greater metropolitan area, is prone to earthquakes and flooding, and is rapidly sinking due to the uncontrolled extraction of ground water.
Monsoon rains and rising rivers early this month left more than 60 people dead and 500,000 displaced.
Mineral-rich East Kalimantan was once almost completely covered by rainforests before illegal logging removed much of its original growth. It is home to only 3.5 million people and is surrounded by Kutai National Park, known for orangutans and other primates and mammals.
Indonesia is an archipelago nation of more than 17,000 islands, but currently 54 percent of the country’s nearly 270 million people live on Java, the country’s most densely populated island where Jakarta is located.