Microsoft has a licence to deal with Huawei again

At the start of the month, the United States hinted that elements of its Huawei trade ban could be relaxed by granting licences to certain companies.

It appears Microsoft is one of the lucky beneficiaries. “On November 20th, the US Department of Commerce granted Microsoft’s request for a license to export mass-market software to Huawei,” a company spokesperson told Bloomberg. “We appreciate the department’s action in response to our request.”

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“Mass-market software” can mean different things to different people, and Microsoft didn’t elaborate further on what it meant – but it would be surprising if that didn’t cover Windows and possibly Office as well. 

That will certainly help with Huawei’s laptop division. Earlier this year, the company pulled out a new Matebook from CES Asia, with the US ban believed to be the main reason. Now Microsoft is able to trade with Huawei again, perhaps the new laptop – or a modified version of it – will finally be able to make its debut.     

That’s undoubtedly good news for Huawei, but not as helpful as a Google licence would be – and so far there’s no sign of that. The company is the third largest phone manufacturer in the world, and not being able to ship Google apps (Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, etc.) with its phones is certainly hurting the company, even though Android itself is open source. 

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As Max wrote in our review of the Mate 30 Pro: “The software – or rather, the lack of Google’s software – is ultimately the key reason it is impossible for us to recommend this phone despite its otherwise strong performance.” 

Microsoft getting a licence may give Huawei hope that a Google one is just around the corner, but given the explanation of the ban is due to suspicion of Chinese spying on US cellular networks, smartphone software could be a harder sell than getting Windows back on laptops.

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