Reporter | Wu Yangyang
Editor | Chen Rui
If the impact of US sanctions on Huawei is divided into two parts:software and hardware, software is the most comprehensive part that Huawei currently responds to-regardless of its ability to attract developers and users, at least there should be There are all.
So software has become all that was released at the 2020 Developer Conference yesterday, and Huawei hardly mentioned any information related to chip supply.
According to an additional sanctions decision made by the U.S. Department of Commerce against Huawei on August 17, from September 15th, all semiconductor companies that use equipment, software, and design and production of American companies— -The previous technical limit was 25%, which was reduced to 10%in December last year, and now it has become 0-No supply to Huawei is allowed without the approval of the US government. South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo reported on September 8 that due to the US government’s sanctions on Huawei, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will cut off the supply of Huawei on September 15. TSMC Chairman Liu Deyin has previously confirmed that Huawei will no longer be shipped after September 14.
This means that Huawei has less than 5 days left, which also makes the atmosphere of this developer conference delicate. Huawei’s key word for this year is:Together.
The debut and open source of the second-generation Hongmeng operating system Harmony OS 2.0 are the core of the conference. Zhang Pingan, President of Huawei’s Consumer Business Cloud Services, revealed at the press conference that Huawei’s HMS 1.0 was launched on May 16, 2019, the day the United States released the “Entity List”.”HMS core is the result of more than 300 days of battles assembled by thousands of Huawei engineers in Songshan Lake.” Zhang Pingan said.
After that, thousands of engineers were dispatched to Huawei’s newly-built R&D headquarters in Songshan Lake, Dongguan, and iterated 5 versions in more than 300 days, with an average upgrade every two months.
Since May 16, 2019, it has been included in the”Entity List” by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which prohibits obtaining components and related components from U.S. companies without the approval of the U.S. government Technology, Huawei is preparing technologies that can replace American suppliers.
After six extensions, on August 13, the sixth temporary license provided by the US Department of Commerce to Huawei also expired, and no new extension license has been given so far. This makes all American companies that are still providing technology to Huawei in an illegal state under American law.
At the same time, according to the schedule shown by Yu Chengdong at the press conference, Huawei will start on September 10 Open the Beta version of Harmony OS 2.0 to developers of Huawei’s large-screen devices (smart TVs), watches and car machines, and enter the public beta; in the next December, Harmony will be further opened to developers of Huawei mobile phones.
If the public beta goes well, Hongmeng will be commercially available in 2021, and users will be equipped with the Hongmeng system as early as 2021. Huawei mobile phones-of course, the premise is that the chip inventory can be maintained until 2021.
Operating system + application package, the basics are all available
At the same time, Hongmeng will also Three-party hardware vendors open source.
At the press conference on September 10, Wang Chenglu, President of Huawei’s Consumer Business Software Department, showed how a mobile phone equipped with the Hongmeng system can command a microwave oven equipped with the Hongmeng system to make a steamed meat:As long as you open a recipe in your mobile phone, decompose the recipe information according to the established format, and then click”start cooking” on the mobile phone screen, the microwave oven will start to produce according to the order.”Home appliances without a screen will also become screened.” Wang Chenglu said.
According to the timeline, from September 10, the Hongmeng system will be available for terminal devices with 128KB-128MB memory such as large screens, watches, and cars; in April 2021, the open source target will be expanded to Terminal devices with a memory of 128MB-4GB will be open sourced for all devices above 4GB after October 2021.
Hongmeng’s selling point is defined as “distributed technology”. Through a set of distributed storage architecture for files and data, plus remote reading and writing technology, users not only The mobile phone can call the camera video call of other large screens (such as smart TV or tablet computer), and can also turn the mobile phone into the remote control of some home appliances-as long as these devices are equipped with the Hongmeng system.
Compared with the Harmony OS 1.0 released a year ago, the new generation of Hongmeng operating system does not have many major functional updates:it is still an IoT system adapted to a variety of smart terminals. The commercial range becomes wider.
“Interaction between devices” is an iterative focus of Hongmeng 2.0. In addition to dragging files across screens, Hongmeng 2.0 also establishes a”chat” window between the device and the device, allowing users to send photos to the TV screen at home via their mobile phones when traveling abroad. Compared with version 1.0, Hongmeng 2.0 brings more fun in the way of human-computer interaction.
In addition to the operating system, Yu Chengdong also released the fifth-generation mobile service suite HMS 5.0 (Huawei Mobile Services) at the developer conference that day, covering everything from payment, advertising systems, browsers, maps to search engines And other 5 basic applications. These applications are currently only oriented to overseas markets to make up for Google’s GMS-including search engine Google, map application Google Map, advertising system Google Ads, browser Chrome, video platform YouTube and a series of application services developed by Google vacancies.
But the most critical chip has not yet arrived
Wang Chenglu described the operating system as the root of the software industry,”China’s software ecosystem is easy (especially when going overseas). It withered instantly because there was no root.” Wang Chenglu said.
But if you have hardware—mainly a smartphone—Hongmeng has a real use for Huawei.
At present, Huawei is waiting for the delivery of 5nm chips from TSMC’s foundry for the Kirin 9000 processor to be released this year, which is planned to be used in this year’s latest mobile phone Mate40. As mentioned earlier, the additional sanctions decision made by the United States in August means that TSMC will deliver all the orders before September 14.
According to Yu Chengdong at the China Information Technology Hundreds Conference held on August 7, the Mate 40 Kirin 9000 chip is likely to become the last generation of Kirin high-end chips. According to the data given by the communications industry analyst Huang Haifeng, the Kirin 9000 inventory is about 10 million units, which means that the production capacity of Huawei Mate 40 will be limited to about 10 million units. The data can be referred to last year. Three months after the launch of the mate 30, shipments exceeded 12 million units.
The lack of chips will not only affect Huawei’s high-end mobile phone business, but will also affect those affordable models with less advanced manufacturing processes. In December last year, in response to TSMC’s voltage power at the time, Huawei transferred 14nm products to SMIC for production, and in early 2020, SMIC produced the Kirin 14nm process 710A. The Honor Play 4T is equipped with this chip.
However, according to a report by Reuters on September 4, the Pentagon has proposed to the U.S. End-User Review Committee that SMIC be included in the”Entity List.” A US official claimed that the US government is assessing the relationship between SMIC and the military. SMIC denies this relationship, but it cannot deny that its production lines are also full of American technology:Applied Materials, Lam Research, KLA Corp, etc. They are all important material suppliers or equipment suppliers of SMIC. The prospectus submitted before its listing also mentioned that”it cannot produce for certain customers until it has been approved by the US Department of Commerce.””Several customers” include Huawei.
A Huawei employee told YiMagazine”China Business News” that Huawei has not completely given up hope for overseas suppliers. The two American companies that they have most high hope for are Qualcomm and Intel.”At least it is American companies. They are still more legitimate in lobbying than companies in other countries, and they are also diverting business back to the United States.” The employee said, either to hire Intel OEMs or directly purchase from Qualcomm.
This statement sounds reasonable, but if Google fails to convince the US government, the persuasiveness of Qualcomm and Intel will have to be questioned.
Supply chain is more of a long story
It is also true to apply Wang Chenglu’s description that China’s software industry has no “roots” in China’s hardware field.
In the upstream of SMIC, there is no lithography machine that can provide the most advanced process in China. The high-end part of this market has been monopolized by a Dutch company called ASML (ASML) for many years. It is independently derived from the semiconductor division of Philips. The latest process currently in mass production is 5 nanometers (nm).
China’s most advanced lithography machine comes from Shanghai Microelectronics, but it will not be able to launch the first 28nm lithography machine until 2021. Chips of this process can only be used in some home appliances that do not require so much computing speed, and Huawei’s current lowest-end smartphones are already made of 14nm.
Furthermore, the more deadly point is that 20%of the parts and components required for ASML manufacturing machines come from the United States.
In order to realize the localization of the chip industry, there is another weakness that is the chip design software EDA (Electronic Design Automation). According to a research report published in May by Randy Abrams, head of the Asian Semiconductor Research Department of Credit Suisse, as many as 85%of global chip design companies use Cadence, Synopsis and Mentor design software-among these three suppliers The first two are from the United States, and only Mentor is a German company.
Among domestic EDA suppliers, BGI, Guangliwei, and Xinhe Technology, etc., only involve part of the EDA software, and cannot realize the full-process chip design.
Neither the lithography machine nor the EDA is a purely technical problem-ASML’s EUV (extreme ultraviolet) lithography machine technology is open source-but it takes money, talent and time to master these technologies .
Huawei established an investment company called Hubble Technology in April 2019 and invested 16 projects related to chips, semiconductor materials, artificial intelligence, etc. in the past year. Some of these projects are related to chips. For example, Hubble’s first target Suzhou Si Ruipu Microelectronics is engaged in the design of analog chips.
Projects that appeared on this investment list also include Changzhou Fuene Technology, which develops graphene thermal film; Shandong Tianyue Advanced Materials, which develops a material called the third-generation semiconductor material—— Silicon carbide; Suzhou Dongwei Semiconductor, making charging pile chips; smartsens, making image sensor chip design… In short, most of the projects invested by Huawei’s investment company since its establishment are related to future communication technologies, materials, and scenarios.
For Huawei, among all the current difficulties, the most anxious solution is the mobile phone chip. Mobile phone business is not optional, it means cash flow. Moreover, Huawei has opened more than 30,000 offline retail stores around the world, and these stores are in urgent need of hardware to fill-mobile phones are the most important part.
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