I'm a cynical person. I don't say that as if its some sort of badge of honor or anything, because it's most definitely not and has caused more trouble than I care to think about. Other cynical people can relate, I'm sure. Things get weird when you think everything will end badly and every bit of good news is just a mental cushioning for the inevitable worst case scenario that is definitely going to happen, and that goes super-double when it comes to words — written or spoken — from government "people." Thankfully, I'm also happy to realize when I'm wrong and enjoy what's good in life when I can finally trust it.
The past week, and by that I mean the whole Huawei thing, has shown me that I have plenty of people ready and able to help further my cynicism; with a few exceptions, the world of consumer tech enthusiasts is cynical as hell.
Don't worry, this isn't going to rehash the ban/not a ban on Huawei phones. There are plenty of other well-written posts and endless cynical discussions about it all over the tech side of the internet and I can't really add anything to it that hasn't been said. It's more of a look at and commentary about just how much we all assume the worst, expect the worst, and act the worst when something happens that might be the worst. And yes, that 100% includes me.
It ain't over 'till it's over
We all assume that this is a done deal and Huawei is dead as far as a successful Android phone maker in the west. I know, some of you reading this don't feel that way, but indulge my figure of speech here (there will be more). Huawei is a bad actor or an innocent player that was treated unfairly by a bad actor, Google will try to do whatever it can to make as much money from existing Huawei products then bail on them, and your awesome new P30 Pro will transform into a gloriously expensive paperweight in the near future. Also, we should have seen this coming and it's our own fault for buying the best ever phone (or backdoor-ridden Chinese spying tech depending on your point of view) because Google/The President/America hates something.
On day one, I fell into this trap and said to myself, "Whelp, Huawei is dead in Canada and the E.U., now, too, unless they can send some bribe money to D.C." because I'm a cynical tech lover before I'm a paid writer of Android and tech things. It's in my D.N.A. just like yours. I made sure to not let that creep into anything I wrote, because I've also done this long enough to know savvy readers would crucify me if I did. Tech writers need to leave opinion out of articles that aren't an opinion. I had planned to wait until today when I get time to write a bunch of blatantly opinionated words to proclaim the end is near for Huawei and "open" Android can't save it.
That's an easy trap to fall into, and a good bit of it is our — meaning people who write about tech for a living — fault. We don't bother to write that "company X isn't involved in anything controversial and everything is wonderful" often enough. Usually, because there is always something controversial happening but also because that's a pretty boring read. Our job is to tell readers about news and developments, good and bad, and showcase great new products so we can find everything that's wrong with them. And every once in a while we're allowed to step to the podium and opine about something and hope people will read it. This job is stressful, y'all, and if you weren't a cynic when you came in, well I dunno, because you were a cynic just like the rest of us.
Every now and then we get to talk about a bit of bad news that's a big deal. Galaxy Note 7 battery type of big. That happened this week with Huawei. The number two phone manufacturer in the world, which also happens to be a media darling because its stuff is so freaking good, is now in real trouble with an administration in Washington that everyone has an opinion about. Lots of keyboards went into overdrive because we (the tech media we) wanted to find out as much as we could, then tell you. Our bosses love the attention articles of this type can garner, but to those of us writing them, job numero uno is to do a damn good job covering the story from all angles. Then, tech enthusiasts, ourselves included, can proceed to disagree, agree, or ignore as we see fit. Man, we kicked ass this time — both as tech media and as cynical tech enthusiasts.
Huawei is in almost the exact situation ZTE was in during 2018. Really. All the talk of backdoors and spying we've heard about weren't really the focus here and not when Huawei was placed on the bad actor's Entity List. Huawei is suspected of and indicted for selling products to Iran without proper authorization. This gets it placed on the list. And it should. (Pardon me while I duck the rotten fruit.) We do not make the rules, we do not get to decide if the U.S. thinks Iran is a country that should be treated as an enemy state, and we don't get to decide if Huawei sold anything to Iran. We are free to disagree, but that doesn't matter. Huawei knew the rules, and if it broke them, it knew the penalties. If it did not break them, it should do everything it can to show it's innocence.
Google has no say in what it can and cannot do in regard to Huawei. Google has to comply with U.S. law or risk being punished by the U.S. government. That means no more supplying Huawei with software or access to software after the U.S. says it has to stop. That doesn't mean "no more Android", just no more of the Google stuff that works with and inside of Android, because Android's source code is posted for anyone to use.
The way these two truths blossomed into the death of any company, the talk of how a company owes us something because it happened, or even that another company is secretly behind it all and convinced the Department of Commerce to do it was, in a word, amazing. A true sight to behold. It also proves that collectively, tech lovers who frequent the internet are smart as all get-out, and we also know without a doubt that the worst possible thing is going to happen. I loved seeing it and I hated seeing it all at once, but most of all, I was part of it just like many of you were. Was the worst kind of fun, wasn't it?
I'm done this time, though. I'm pulling out and watching, and knowing that this could also end in a fine that Huawei can easily afford and things go back to "normal" just like they did with ZTE. Huawei would also be better equipped to handle the blowback than ZTE was, and the new Mate or P series phone will come out on schedule — and so will the one after that.
Yes, I know that some of you had that mindset since the beginning and I'll politely ask you not to do the whole I-told-you-so thing, thank you very much. Besides, what any of us think doesn't really matter anyway, so I might as well relax with a book and a beer.
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