Huawei heads into battle with Microsoft

Huawei is gunning to be a top five player in smartphones within three years, but its choice of Google’s Android operating system is pitching it into direct conflict with Microsoft.
 
The Chinese vendor yesterday revealed the first two devices designed to establish it as a direct-to-consumer brand. The Vision smartphone  runs version 2.3 of Android and will be available in the UK in time for Christmas, while the seven-inch MediaPad tablet – which operates Android v3.2 – is slated to launch in the country early 2012.
 
“We’re moving to a B2P model, where P is for people. Previously we only sold to operators” Victor Xu, chief marketing officer of Huawei Device explains.
 
Xu revealed ambitious plans to become a top-five smartphone vendor within three years and hit the top three within five years, noting that the firm is “embarking on an incredible journey of transformation.”
 
The first devices target young consumers who are heavy social media users, and the firm chose to launch first in the UK because it is highly competitive and very brand conscious, Xu says. Other markets on the radar include the US, India, and Japan, he revealed.
 
Plans to open a London-based design center early next year are also well underway. Andy Davey, the firm’s European creative director, says the facility is a meeting point for Huawei and Europe, but will also act as a global center for the exchange of ideas.
 
Mark Mitchinson, vice president of Huawei Device UK and Ireland, believes the firm is already making progress with its consumer strategy, having improved the devices it launches over the past six months. “We’re very serious, very aggressive and disruptive,” he says.
 
One potential stumbling block to Huawei’s smartphone ambitions is Microsoft, which has spent much of 2011 licensing essential patents to other Android vendors – notably HTC and Samsung.
 

Xu admits the US firm has approached Huawei regarding a license, but seemed reluctant to discuss how much that might cost. Instead he notes that Huawei “always respect the intellectual property of other companies,” and says Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is changing the situation with Microsoft. “This issue is in progress,” he says.

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