Huawei continues its comeback from U.S. sanctions, unveiling a new laptop with a homegrown OS and AI—and an Intel processor



Huawei, the U.S.-blacklisted Chinese tech giant, unveiled several new products on Thursday, capitalizing on surging consumer and business interest in its technology.

Months after surprising China with its Mate 60 Pro smartphone, which features a controversial homegrown processor, Huawei unveiled a new premium AI-capable laptop—powered by a processor from a U.S.-based partner.

The MateBook X Pro, the newest version of Huawei’s laptop, includes Intel’s Core Ultra 9 processor, the U.S. company’s first made using the extreme ultraviolet lithography equipment used to make the most advanced chips, according to Nikkei Asia.

The laptop also uses two pieces of Huawei-developed software: the operating system HarmonyOS and the AI large language model Pangu. The MateBook will cost 14,999 yuan ($2072)

Intel’s ties to Huawei

Huawei’s return to the premium consumer market is a marked change from just a few years ago when the company was struggling to survive in the face of severe U.S. sanctions.

The Trump administration stopped Huawei from getting access to advanced processors, forcing the company to suspend production of its premium products.

Yet Huawei got a lifeline from Intel, which reportedly received a license from the Trump administration to continue selling laptop processors to the Chinese company.

Intel’s competitors, led by AMD, are pressuring the Biden administration to revoke this permission, Reuters reported earlier this year.

An internal AMD presentation reportedly claimed that Intel now provides 90.7% of Huawei’s laptop processors in the first six months of 2023, up from 52.9% in 2020. AMD’s share, by comparison, dropped from 47.1% to just 9.3%.

China contributed about a quarter of Intel’s sales last year, making it the chipmaker’s largest market, even ahead of the U.S.

Still, Intel might be hit by regulatory scrutiny from Beijing, which is trying to reduce its reliance on foreign-sourced technology.

Late last year, regulators ordered government departments to phase out their use of computers using foreign chips.

And on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will order telecoms companies to stop using foreign processors by 2027.

Comeback

Huawei is pushing its way back into China’s tech sector with an array of homegrown, high-end products.

The company’s most high-profile debut was the Mate 60 Pro, released last year. The 5G smartphone features an advanced processor just a few generations behind the current cutting-edge. State media hailed the phone as a triumph for China’s tech industry. Chinese consumers, too, flocked to the new phone, sending Huawei’s sales up 64% year-on-year over the first six weeks of 2024.

Huawei is also developing its own AI chips, much like the processors from Nvidia that help train AI models. Chinese customers are reportedly turning to Huawei’s processors due to fears that the U.S. could expand its controls on chip sales to China.

Finally, Huawei is trying to break into China’s fiercely competitive EV sector, like its tech rival Xiaomi. The company sells hardware and software to Chinese automakers, and also designs and markets its own cars, often in joint ventures with an existing carmaker.

On Thursday, Huawei announced a new version of its Luxeed S7 EV, developed in partnership with Chinese carmaker Chery, following months of supply shortages.

All these new products are helping Huawei’s bottom line. The company said it had 87 billion yuan ($12 billion) in net profit for 2023, a 144% year-on-year increase.



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