Huawei and Google were reportedly just months away from releasing a Google Assistant smart speaker before the the US ban thwarted the two companies’ plans.
According to a report by The Information, Huawei and Google planned to launch the new smart speaker at IFA 2019 in Berlin this September. However, US government sanctions, which restricted Huawei’s access to US tech suppliers ensured that the project was killed in May this year.
An anonymous Huawei employee told The Information that they had “worked on this project with Google for a year and made a lot of progress”, and that “everything suddenly stopped”.
While the sources cited in the report didn’t offer any details about the smart speaker itself, it’s possible that it would have been similar to the Huawei AI Cube, the company’s 4G router-come-smart-speaker.
The fact that Huawei was working on a smart speaker with Google isn’t exactly unexpected; Huawei and Honor phones run the Google-developed Android OS, after all, and the two companies have worked together for a number of years.
However, the US Huawei ban has had far-reaching consequences, which means Google and Huawei’s relationship is incredibly uncertain.
When the Trump administration placed the Chinese brand on the ‘entity list’ earlier this year, it limited the business US companies could do with it – including Google.
In response, Google suspended Huawei’s future access to Android Play Store and security updates, leading to questions about the viability of future Huawei and Honor phones.
Both Google and Huawei have promised that they will support phones that are currently on the market, but we don’t know how long these models will receive Android updates or have access to the Google Play Store.
Recently there has been a slight reprieve for the company, with President Trump suggesting the Huawei ban could soon be over at the G20 summit in Japan – and by mid-July, some US companies were permitted to trade with Huawei.
For now, Google is still working with Huawei on a temporary basis – but with so much uncertainty, we may never see that fabled Huawei/Google smart speaker.