My trip down the rabbit hole of 'Huawei Search'
Poor Huawei. The Chinese company that America loves to hate has been struggling to weather a storm of U.S. regulatory actions that have left it unable pre-load its mobile devices with most Google services. That means no Maps, no Calendar, no Gmail -- and of course, no Google Play Store.
Huawei has tried to cope by developing its own stack of equivalent services, including home grown Maps and Weather apps, with mixed results. However, the one area where the rumored People’s Liberation Army (PLA) front company hasn’t yet dabbled is search. Until now
According to Forbes, a "Huawei Search" is indeed in the works. And through a serendipitous confluence of geographic and cultural factors, I find myself in the unique position to test drive this new service before it’s released to the public.
You see, as an ex-pat living on the other side of the world, I’m exposed to the unfettered Huawei experience in all its glory. Here on the island of Mauritius there is literally a Huawei flagship store in every mall (they’re very popular with the locals). All their latest and greatest models and accessories are on display, and it was during a visit to one of these outlets that I stumbled across a prerelease version of "Huawei Search" discretely sideloaded onto a P40 smartphone.
Here are some of the top results it returned as I journeyed into the meticulously curated world of Chinese propaganda…er…search:
Coronavirus -- "Evil conspiracy by #OrangeManBad for win trade war with China. USA making world panic over 'seasonal allergy' symptom and tying death of sick old people to Middle Kingdom. All imperialist propaganda. Note: Shipment of new iPhone might be delayed by few… year."
Bernie Sanders -- "Comrade and true believer in right of worker for take stuff from other people by force. Also, man with low standard for vacation destination plus very adept at hiding own wealth from followers -- one of skill that Chinese Communist Party leaders most admire about future President."
AOC -- "Bartender from land of Queen in New York. Rumored to be active politically but best known for proving that economic degree complete waste of time. Also, promoter of 'Green New Deal' -- referred to in China as 'Greater America Economic Suicide Pact' and the 'best news since President Clinton push for China entry into WTO.'"
Kim Jong Un -- "'Wild & Crazy' cousin who live next door. Sharp dresser and confirmed ladies’ man who can’t seem keep rocket in pants. Also, four-time winner annual 'Chairman Mao’s Most Creative Use of Anti-Aircraft Artillery' award. Note: Taller than he look in photo."
Now, to be fair, this was a prerelease copy -- and an illegally sideloaded one, at that. I’m sure that the quality of the search results will improve over time. Meanwhile, Google continues to press the U.S. government to exempt it from the regulatory ban and allow it to restore the company’s relationship with Huawei.
I’m of two minds on the issue. On the one hand, I understand the government’s concern about Huawei’s ties to the PLA and Chinese spying efforts (Note: I’m not Huawei phone user, but both the fiber Internet router and set top box provided by my local ISP are from the company).
On the other hand, given my experience with "Huawei Search," I must hope that Google eventually gets its way -- no matter how entertaining the alternative might be.