Huawei to invest more to capture intelligent computing market

SHANGHAI – Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei said on Wednesday (Sept 18) that it will invest heavily in developing its own hardware and software to create a foothold in the computing market, signalling that it remains confident in the face of the United States trade ban.

Huawei deputy chairman Ken Hu said at the opening of a three-day annual conference that the firm has faced immense pressures in the past six months.

“But we are in fine form now, just like the weather in Shanghai today with its cool, crisp autumn air and light and windy clouds,” he said.

In May, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker found itself in the crossfires of an escalating trade and technology war between China and the US when it was blacklisted by Washington on national security concerns.

This effectively bars US firms from selling components such as computer chips and technology to the Chinese tech giant.

The company has estimated that its revenues will take a hit of US$20 billion (S$28 billion) to US$30 billion this year as a result of the restriction, although it has yet to come into force as Washington delayed the ban for another 90 days a month ago.

On Wednesday, Mr Hu laid out plans to turn Huawei into a computing powerhouse as he predicts a boom in the market over the next 10 years.

“The future of computing is a massive market worth more than US$2 trillion a year,” he said.

Huawei estimates that in the next five years, artificial intelligence (AI) computing will account for more than 80 per cent of all computing power used around the world.

Complicated applications like autonomous driving, astronomy and weather forecasting will require more computing power than ever.

And computing will be ubiquitous, where devices ranging from headphones to smartphones will all have in-built computing powers.

With an eye on the opportunities in the market, Huawei has decided to invest more to explore new architectures, and develop processors for use in more scenarios beyond its current offerings of general purpose computing chips, AI chips, smart devices chips and smart screen chips.

Mr Hu stressed that Huawei believes in building an open ecosystem for computing.

“No single company can prop up the entire industry on its own,” he said.

To that end, the firm will invest US$1.5 billion over the next five years to expand its developer programme. The funds will go into supporting five million developers and enabling the firm’s partners to develop new applications and solutions.

Separately, at a press briefing , Mr Hu was asked if Huawei has concrete plans on what 5G patents it plans to sell and if it already has potential buyers.

This comes as Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in a recent interview that he is ready to sell the firm’s 5G technologies to Western players to level the playing field.

Mr Hu said the proposal could spur more competition in the area of 5G, and this will invariably benefit the users and promote the development of the industry.

He reiterated that the Western security concerns over Huawei’s 5G solutions are “without any grounds”.

“Because they don’t have the technology, there is always a lot of suspicion,” he told Chinese and international reporters.

“If they took a commercial approach and could develop it on their own, I think it should solve the problem,” he added.

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