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An Age of Bifurcated AI Has Begun

Some providers stand better positioned to deliver on AI’s potential than others. Huawei strikes me as one of those providers in this role and consequently serves as an AI barometer. Specifically, Huawei largely does business outside of the US. As a result, it tends to view and approach AI differently than US-based providers. This may well result in the beginning of a bifurcated AI world.

To better validate that assumption, I traveled internationally in mid-April 2024 to attend the Huawei Analyst Summit in China. I first traveled to Shenzhen, China, to hear and attend the opening day keynotes. After that, I flew north to meet with the data protection and storage teams in Chengdu, China. While I have separately blogged about my tourist experiences (blog posts,) this blog entry focuses on Huawei’s advances in AI.

Three themes covered during the conference led me to believe a bifurcated AI world has begun.

Pervasive Adoption of Huawei Impacts Its AI Model

Huawei, perhaps more so than any other company in the world, offers a comprehensive set of technologies. Huawei sells everything from wearable and mobile devices to enterprise technologies. Further, third-party analyst firms frequently recognize Huawei as being a leader in many of the categories in which it competes. This recognition ranges from Huawei’s dominant market share to offering superior products.

This market leadership, coupled with superior technologies, places Huawei in a unique position. Like most companies, Huawei sees technology used everywhere by all consumers and businesses of all sizes and types. Huawei further noted that computing has become pervasive in all technologies that has resulted in major revolutions. These include machines, electricity, information, and now intelligence.

Unlike most companies, Huawei has emerged uniquely positioned to deliver a broad range of technologies. This gives Huawei access to more types of machine-generated data from more sources than potentially other technology provider.

While admittedly Huawei does largely operate outside of the US, a lot of the world exists outside the US. Further, the more I meet with technology leaders working in businesses in other countries, the less reservations I see them having about buying Huawei’s products.

Yes, they believe that Huawei gathers machine-generated data from the devices they buy from Huawei. But they also think US-based companies collect the same type of data. Further, I do not get the sense they trust US-based companies any more or less than they trust Huawei. As such, the presumed data gathering by Huawei does not present a significant buying barrier for them.

This has led to Huawei having more success and potentially gathering more data from the billions of people and millions of companies that reside outside the US. Further, Huawei offers devices for every person and business type, giving Huawei access to potentially untold amounts of data.

Simplified Approach to Platform OSes

Every product line from a provider tends to often offer its own OS. This has always somewhat baffled me. Unique OSes create inefficiencies in system administration resulting in organizations rarely becoming proficient in using these technologies or standardizing on them.

Unique OSes also make it more challenging for organizations to fully capitalize on each OS’ advanced features. This does not even address the extra costs and complexity on the provider side associated with supporting different OSes across their platforms.

Huawei Analyst Summit Pics 1 CroppedHuawei seems driven to fix this systemic problem. I view it as unlikely that Huawei will ever get down to one OS that it supports across all its platforms. However, Huawei may reduce the number of supported OSes across its various technology platforms to just a few.

For instance, on its enterprise storage side,  Huawei already primarily uses its OceanOS across all its storage platforms. This extends into the Huawei cloud which significantly differentiates Huawei from both its cloud and storage competitors. It then behooves an organization to become proficient in the OceanOS platform. Once mastered, administrators may use the same commands and features both on-premises and in the cloud.

Huawei has now also brought its Harmony OS to market for mobile devices competing with Android and iOS. It has also created its own Harmony store to which thousands of application developers have already signed on.

These common OSes across Huawei’s technology platforms, coupled with their growing adoption, create a unique AI opportunity for Huawei. Machine data and information that once went to many of its competitors will now come directly to Huawei. Further,  Huawei’s broad reach into consumer, business, and enterprise markets give it heightened levels of visibility into them.

Given Huawei’s broad reach into the world outside of the US, this gives Huawei a decided edge in developing AI. This edge has made the OSes on its platforms more uniform and easier to support even as Huawei grows its reach. Yet it may the US that may ultimately drive more individuals and organizations residing outside of the US to adopt Huawei’s technologies.

US Sanctions Prompting Huawei to Innovate and Go It Alone

The current US sanctions against China represent perhaps the biggest non-business and non-technical factors impacting Huawei’s innovations. The US continues to pass laws that restrict trade with China, hoping to negatively impact China financially.

China may well experience some consequences from these sanctions by the US and other countries. However, it would be a mistake to say or think that Chinese companies have given up or feel defeated.

Rather, Chinese companies such as Huawei have resolved to innovate and go it alone. Evidence Huawei’s development and release of the Harmony OS for mobile devices.

China represents a huge market for Apple and Google cellular phones. But with US sanctions increasingly blocking these companies from doing business there, Chinese people will not simply stop using cellular phones. If anything, they use cellular phones for more day-to-day commercial and personal activities than US citizens.

These US sanctions have effectively created a huge opportunity for Huawei to capture this increasingly stranded market. Based on what I saw during my short visit there, Huawei has effectively begun to capture this Chinese market. Further, little stands in the way of Huawei expanding its reach outside of China to the rest of Asia and beyond.

An Age of Bifurcated AI has Begun

The theme of the Huawei Analyst Summit was “Thrive with Intelligence.” Yet to thrive with intelligence, one must have access to data. This includes access to the right type of data and the ability to manage and manipulate it once one possesses it. Further, the type of data one has access to will influence the “intelligence” of the AI tool.

With respect to Huawei, it has taken multiple steps to improve its AI strategy. Offering technologies for consumer, business, and enterprise segments, it can collect data across all of them. Further, by using a single OS for each platform, it can effectively manage and manipulate this data after collecting it.

However, the type of intelligence Huawei’s AI engine produces may diverge significantly from what those companies in the US produce. By restricting Huawei from selling in certain countries, and US providers from selling in China, they cannot obtain data from those locations. As a result, the intelligence of the AI tools will have these gaps in their knowledge base and will bifurcate accordingly. This represents the new world of AI that we now appear ready to enter.

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