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The US veto on Huawei: A world of oligopoly software, and that is not good for users

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Aakash Molpariya
Aakash started in Nov 2018 as a writer at Revyuh.com. Since joining, as writer, he is mainly responsible for Software, Science, programming, system administration and the Technology ecosystem, but due to his versatility he is used for everything possible. He writes about topics ranging from AI to hardware to games, stands in front of and behind the camera, creates creative product images and much more. He is a trained IT systems engineer and has studied computer science. By the way, he is enthusiastic about his own small projects in game development, hardware-handicraft, digital art, gaming and music. Email: aakash (at) revyuh (dot) com

Undoubtedly, one of the most important news about the world of technology this week are those that have to do with Huawei, the Chinese company (although it also applies to any other that the Secretary of Commerce considers “dangerous for your national security” ) has been vetoed by the United States following an executive order signed by Donald Trump, and introduced in the Entity List or blacklist.

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The most shocking immediate consequence of this until now has been Google’s decision to suspend its business with Huawei in regards to the transfer of hardware and software, which would leave the future devices of the company without access to Google services. and its applications ecosystem, in addition to a goodbye to the support offered by the search giant in relation to Android. And while all this could be catastrophic for the Chinese company, it also reveals something that many of us already knew but had never been so clearly exposed: the software world is dominated by a few companies, users are quite defenseless before them and we lack real alternatives.

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That Android is open source really does not matter

Android may be open source and Huawei can continue to use the mobile operating system created by Google, but who take a close look at what is really AOSP, ie the Android ‘open source’ without Google would be an option, knows that as an alternative it is quite lacking , if not almost useless in practice.

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Why? Because Google has secured over the years to close the most important parts of its ecosystem, Google Play and Play Store services contain the most essential components of Android: synchronization between applications, account authentication , Play Protect, instant apps, smart unlock, apps like Maps, Gmail, Photos, Drive, and everything that comes from the official app store, and a huge etcetera.

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And still, in the hypothetical case that Huawei or another company decide to create all the components that Google offers to implement their own version of AOSP, it would not only take a lot of time and resources, but they would still not have access to a of the most important parts for any user: the Google Android app ecosystem. Imagine an iPhone without access to the App Store.

Nor would they have access to Android updates because this requires Google certification and with this veto would not get it. The point is that Google has much more control over Android than we sometimes think, and just because it is launched on the air that it is “open source” does not mean at all that it is really an open platform.

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If you wonder what is happening now with your Huawei phone, and you worry that your device is now an expensive paperweight, at least for now you will not suffer major consequences, all on your mobile will continue to work, this has been confirmed by Google. What will happen in the future and with new mobiles is something yet to be determined.

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The rest of my software also comes from the United States but my team is Chinese

And this is another important detail here, this trade war between the United States and China is also technological, and it affects us all beyond the borders of those countries, first because the oligopoly of the current software, both on mobile and in the desktop, is dominated by American companies. iOS and macOS are from Apple, Android is from Google, Windows is from Microsoft, and the cloud is distributed mainly between those last two and Amazon.

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But the chances of your phone being Chinese, or even your computer, are high. Although Microsoft has not gotten wet and does not finish confirming or denying that it will block Windows in Huawei laptops, Trump’s order is clear: no hardware or software companies can collaborate with the Chinese company. Hence, even Intel, Qualcomm and other major chip makers are going to join the blockade against Huawei.

Huawei takes very little manufacturing laptops, so they do not represent by far such a serious problem, the quota of their computers with Windows 10 versus their mobile phones with Android is incomparable. But the point here is the same, at the end of the chain, it is the user who loses.

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On the desktop, Windows has almost 80% of the market share and is not even relatively close to MacOS with around 14%. Chrome OS although it is just over 1%, only serves to add that 95% of computers on this planet use the software of the same three companies and their closed ecosystems .

The mobile side is even worse, almost 100% of the market is shared between iOS and Android, the latter not only has almost 75% of the mobile device market, but it is also the most used operating system in the world, even more than Windows.

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If we look at services in the cloud, Amazon Web Services dominates with 32% of market share, followed by Microsoft with 13%, and Google Cloud with 7.6%, and although there are many more competitors sharing the other half of the pie, it is also remarkable the domain of the same group of companies that are all the same country.

All this just to put into perspective what it would mean for any of these platforms to block a brand or a supplier for whatever reasons. It is closing the doors of one or all of the ecosystems in which you can survive nowadays.

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At the mercy of a few companies

Back, far back were the days when you bought a technological product and it was truly yours. Currently most of the software is offered as a service, and you may have paid thousands of dollars for your new mobile or computer, but without the closed software ecosystem that supports it and over which you have absolutely no control, you only have one brick shining.

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Currently, if you do not like Apple’s closed ecosystem, your alternative is the closed Google ecosystem. There simply are no more viable alternatives, nor are they comfortable, nor friendly to the user, nor easily accessible.

Nowadays, if you do not like a closed ecosystem your main alternative is another closed ecosystem.

And although in the case of the desktop it is less extreme, first because both in Windows and in macOS (still) we can escape from the closed ecosystems of its application stores (although we know that Microsoft and Apple would be happy that we did not do it, in case that their constant efforts to promote their apps stores as the best and safest in the world have not made it clear), the optimal functioning of the system and therefore the team and its security, completely depend on these companies, and their licenses are they can revoke you at any time and for an infinite number of reasons, including commercial dramas that escape completely from your existential circle and that sometimes seem incredible that they affect you.

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It is easy to blame the users for choosing one thing or another or to have collaborated to the existence of this oligopoly with their money, but it is not your fault or mine. All these companies have been competing for years, even decades, and have effectively obliterated all competition.

We live in a time when the world of software is controlled by a few, the alternatives do not exceed two or three and all offer similar restrictions and risks, differ mainly in how they use their marketing and paint their image, and if you put yourself to think a long time, really are not alternatives at all. As consumers, unfortunately our options are quite limited.

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