Huawei reprieve from ARM chip designer could open more doors

JC Torres - Oct 27, 2019, 7:36 pm CDT
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Huawei reprieve from ARM chip designer could open more doors

The doors are closing in on Huawei as the deadline for extensions given to it looms closer. One door, however, was just recently reopened courtesy of ARM Holdings, the company that designs (not makes) the chips that drive today’s smartphones and mobile devices. Not only is this second chance a big relief for the embattled Chinese company, it could also create opportunities for other partners to follow suit, provided they’re willing to take risks for Huawei.

Huawei has been working towards becoming more independent, especially from US companies. It has, for example, created its own Harmony OS and has long been using its HiSilicon Kirin chips instead of Qualcomm’s. That latter, however, has also become problematic as HiSilicon licenses its chip designs from ARM Holdings who recently halted business with Huawei in light of the US government putting the Chinese company on its blacklist.

ARM Holdings, however, was originally a UK company that is now owned by Japan’s Softbank. Its legal team has recently concluded that the technology used in its current ARMv8 chip designs as well as next-gen ones come from the UK, not the US. This legally clears it from the US embargo, which practically means that it could resume its relations with Huawei and Huawei won’t need to worry about the future of its Kirin chips, at least for now.

This change of direction could open opportunities for other companies that want to continue doing business with Huawei. They could review their products and technologies and, should they deem it not of US origin, could use ARM’s precedent as justification. This could also be an interesting case for Android, which may have parts may not have originated from developers in other countries.

It could, however, also open a can of worms as the US government probably won’t take this loophole lightly. It could find other ways to prevent such companies from selling products to Huawei which would then really send the OEM to its knees. Which, of course, makes Huawei a better bargaining chip for trade negotiations.


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