Huawei’s laptop business is facing a reckoning, as the company has asked parts suppliers to suspend deliveries, and has internally halted new notebook projects, according to a report in DigiTimes. This report was independently verified by Notebookcheck, citing manufacturers and suppliers at Computex 2019 in Taipei claiming that Huawei is considering exiting the PC OEM market outright.
Huawei—which had long been limited to enterprise networking hardware—introduced the MateBook series of Windows-powered tablets and laptops in 2016. Compared to Huawei’s smartphone business, the PC OEM division is relatively nascent, with a smaller market share inside and outside of China.
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While the company has spoken publicly about contingency plans for its smartphone division in the event of trade embargos—even before US President Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively preventing US-based businesses from working with Huawei—little has been said about contingencies for the PC OEM business, which is likely more fragile in comparison.
Huawei’s CPU manufacturing division, HiSilicon, has no x86-64 products, making the company dependent on Intel to deliver processors for use in notebook PCs. Microsoft and Qualcomm have worked extensively to bring Windows 10 to the Arm-powered Snapdragon SOC, though Microsoft is similarly restricted from working with Huawei. Attempting to replace Windows would be a challenge. While there are ARM64 ports of China-targeted distributions like Ubuntu Kylin, it may be a stretch to expect Huawei to embrace migrating this business to Linux and ARM64.
Huawei’s MateBook series was well-received
Huawei’s MateBook series was well-received by reviewers, with ZDNet’s Matthew Miller praising the inaugural Windows 10 tablet, saying “it’s great to see manufacturers challenge Microsoft’s Surface devices that I used to think set the bar for well designed computers,” while Adrian Kingsley-Hughes said “the MateBook oozes quality.” Miller called the 2017 MateBook X “a fantastic piece of hardware,” and praised the 2018 MateBook X Pro for having a 91% screen-to-body ratio, and high quality speakers.
For more on the Huawei controversy, check out “5G network deployments stymied by Huawei ban as other firms scramble to fill the void” and “Evidence of backdoors in Huawei equipment collapse under light scrutiny” on TechRepublic.