Huawei's Next Laptop Killed by US Ban: What's Next?

The ongoing dispute between Huawei and the Trump administration has claimed a victim. Huawei now says it is scrapping the launch of a new version of its MateBook laptop, and it cites recent sanctions by the U.S. government as the reason.

Huawei's MateBook X (Credit:Laptop Mag)

Huawei's MateBook X (Credit:Laptop Mag)

Huawei had been planning to unveil a new MateBook this week during CES Asia 2019. But The Information reports today (June 12) that the Chinese company is suspending that launch, with no new release date on the horizon.

It's not hard to figure out why: Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce placed Huawei on its Entity List of companies it believes pose a threat to U.S. national security. Once Huawei landed on that list, U.S. companies became unable to provide Huawei with hardware or software without first obtaining a waiver from the U.S. government.

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The U.S. alleges that Huawei has ties to the Chinese government and that its equipment poses a security threat, though the U.S. government has never offered detailed evidence of that claim. The Trump administration is also locked in a trade war with China, and cynics might suggest that the sanctions against Huawei are simply another strategic tactic in that effort — something that Trump administration has all but confirmed in public comments on Huawei.

Whatever the reason for the U.S. animus toward Huawei, landing on the Commerce Department's Entity List has placed the company in a tricky position. Parts suppliers such as Intel, Qualcomm, Xlinx and Broadcom have already backed away from doing business with Huawei, making it hard for the company to find components for product launches. Reports earlier this week claimed that Huawei was halting its notebook projects.

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer division, confirmed to CNBC that the lack of parts is crippling Huawei's launch plans for the MateBook. "We cannot supply the PC," he said.

Huawei, the world's second-largest phone maker, already has trouble selling its smartphones in the U.S. Plans to line up partnerships with U.S. wireless carriers last year never panned out, reportedly because of U.S. government pressure, which cuts off Huawei from the primary way U.S. consumers shop for phones. Huawei has skipped the U.S. entirely when launching its most recent flagships, though some retailers offer international versions of Huawei's handsets.

It's one thing to be locked out of selling smartphones in the U.S., though. Not even being able to get parts for smartphones sold anywhere poses another challenge altogether, as Huawei's canceled MateBook release prove.

The U.S. sanctions have already impacted Huawei's relationship with Google, which supplies the official Android mobile operating system used on Huawei phones. (An exemption lets Google keep supplying software and security updates to Huawei phones through August, but what happens after that is anyone's guess.)

Huawei has yet to cancel any planned phone launches. But if its suspended attempt to roll out a new MateBook is any indication, expect to hear about more product delays so long as the U.S. restrictions remain in place.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.