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This has been a big week for Huawei Technology. Two key U.S. allies, defying pressure from Washington, signaled their willingness include the Chinese giant’s products in high-speed telecommunications networks. Shanghai announced it will use Huawei equipment to roll out the world’s first 5G railway station. And Huawei’s chairman, in a combative interview with the BBC, declared “there’s no way the U.S. can crush us.”
The Financial Times reported Sunday that Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, a leading government intelligence advisory panel, has concluded that the security risks of using Huawei equipment for the United Kingdom’s 5G network are “manageable.” The FT described the panel’s finding as a “serious blow” to U.S. efforts to persuade its global security allies to ban Huawei from their telecommunications systems. And as we mentioned in the newsletter on Tuesday, Germany may include Huawei its 5G network and is looking for ways to amend its laws so that even firms under suspicion could still compete in the German telecom market.
Shanghai’s Hongqiao Railway Station, one of the world’s biggest, busiest traffic hubs, said it will unveil the world’s first 5G railway station later this year, seeking to demonstrate that Huawei’s technologies are ready for immediate installation while those of Western competitors may be still in development.
And not withstanding this flurry of positive developments—or perhaps emboldened by it—Huawei chairman and founder Ren Zhengfei struck a surprisingly defiant tone Tuesday in his interview with the BBC.
The U.S. accounts for only a tiny fraction of Huawei’s total revenues and Ren suggested the company will do just fine, thank you, even if it gets banned by every U.S. ally. “If the lights go out in the West, the East will still shine. And if the North goes dark, there is still the South. America doesn’t represent the world. America only represents a portion of the world.”
In his three decades as Huawei’s helmsman, Ren has granted an audience to Western journalists on only a handful of occasions. His comments to the BBC came as a Chinese delegation arrived in Washington for high-stakes trade negotiations to head off hundreds of billion in U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports—and aren’t likely to endear him or his company to Trump officials.
He also lashed out at the U.S. for seeking to prosecute his daughter, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, on fraud charges. Since Meng’s Dec. 1 detention in Vancouver, Huawei’s official position has been to take the high road, promising full cooperation and expressing confidence that she will be found innocent. But Ren decried his daughter’s arrest and other indictments against Huawei as unrelated to matters of law. “I object to what the U.S. has done,” he said. “This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable.”
I hear you’re getting nervous. Inside every smart home security system sold by Google’s Nest unit was an undisclosed microphone, the company acknowledged on Tuesday. “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” Nest admitted. “That was an error on our part.” Meanwhile, Google is getting close to debuting an online gaming service, expanding its cloud-gaming platform currently known as Project Stream, Fortune reports.
I have a reason to be nervous. The regulatory crackdown on Facebook rolls on. A complaint released on Tuesday filed with the Federal Trade Commission alleges that the company misled people who posted in medical support groups about how personal health info could be used or shared without explicit permission. That prompted a letter to Facebook from the The House Committee on Energy and Commerce seeking more information. Facebook said it is “intentionally clear” that all group members “can see the posts they choose to share with that community.”
You sure do. Plenty more people joined the voice-controlled digital assistant world over the holidays, according to the latest report from Strategy Analytics. Sales of so-called smart speakers rose 70% in the fourth quarter to 38.5 million devices. Amazon took 36% of the market, Google 30%, and Apple 4%.
Sharing is caring. Two major players developing self-driving cars have each decided to make some of their core software efforts public and free to use. General Motors’ Cruise unit posted its Worldview graphics library online, while Uber made its Autonomous Visualization System software available.
Cutting the cord. In the venture capital market, Toronto startup Peraso Technologies, which is making wireless communications chips for the super-fast 60 GHz standard known as WiGig, raised $42 million. And Microsoft’s venture unit, M12, was one of the lead investors in a $15 million funding for nsKnox, which is developing realtime cyber-fraud prevention systems.
Einstein’s struggle. After successfully sparking two different app ecosystems, Apple may be looking for a grand unification. The company is developing more tools to help software developers write programs that can run both on Mac computers and mobile iOS devices, Bloomberg reports. The aim is for most apps to run on both platforms by 2021.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
India is the second-largest country on Earth by population (though ranked sixth by GDP), thus an enticing potential market for many global companies in search of growth. Fortune’s Vivienne Walt visited to take a deep dive into Google’s “hopes and dreams” of finding rich new revenue streams there. She found many opportunities awaited Google, but they have not been easily seized. Take the case of Google Maps:
Its limitations in India were profound. Thousands of Indian roads have no official street names, and if they do have names, locals do not know them. “We literally had to draw up the maps ourselves,” says Caesar Sengupta, who is based in Singapore and runs Google’s “next billion users” team. Sengupta says Google decided to map India in the way people speak. Now, if you walk around New Delhi, Google Maps might give you directions like “Turn left at the first pillar, right at the hospital, then right again at the school.” (That innovation, too, has been ported to the developed world, where Google Maps makes references to landmarks, like the corner drugstore.) Indian drivers also know that directions depend on which kind of vehicle you are in. So Google engineers tweaked Maps for the country’s three-wheeler scooter taxis known as auto-rickshaws, offering them routes that would not work for cars.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Tesla’s Self-Driving Cars Are Almost Ready to Pick You Up By Alyssa Newcomb
BEFORE YOU GO
Last night’s “Super Snow Moon” was quite beautiful here in the northeast, where it reflected brightly over the snow-covered landscape. With the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing coming up this summer, prepare for an onslaught of historical, nostalgic, and even scientific remembrances. On deck: National Geographic’s new documentary about the Apollo 11 mission. It’s said to include never-before-aired audio recordings and upgraded video footage. The trailer is online now.