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Computing

Huawei laptops quietly return to the Microsoft Store, though the federal ban remains in place

In May, Huawei laptops mysteriously vanished from the Microsoft online store without explanation. Now, in mid-June, they’ve returned.

Microsoft now lists the Matebook X Pro laptop, the Huawei Matebook D, and the Huawei Matebook 13 53010F. All seem to be available, though a version of the Matebook X Pro with a Core i5 and a 256GB SSD is listed as out of stock. (A version with a Core i7 is available.) To date, Microsoft has yet to comment on its relationship with Huawei or the sales (or lack thereof) of its products. 

It’s never been exactly clear how American technology companies are treating Huawei. Fueled by a Trump Administration executive order, Huawei, a leading global smartphone maker, faces being cut off by Android OS supplier Google and other component vendors, including Intel, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. Microsoft, as a supplier to Huawei of Windows updates and other security features, has yet to comment publicly on whether it’s enforcing the ban.

Company representatives did say, however, that what Microsoft is selling in the store is just the “current inventory”. “We have been evaluating, and will continue to respond to, the many business, technical and regulatory complexities stemming from the recent addition of Huawei to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Administration Regulations Entity List,” a Microsoft representative said in an emailed statement. “As a result, we are resuming the sale of existing inventory of Huawei devices at Microsoft Store.”

Even executives at leading technology companies have been close-mouthed, including AMD chief executive Lisa Su, who said last month at Computex that the company was “abiding by the U.S. regulations.” Su never actually confirmed that AMD was suspending sales of its components to Huawei. (Though Huawei is still banned from buying U.S. technology, it has a 90-day reprieve from the Department of Commerce to service existing users dating back to May.)

Though Best Buy has stopped selling Huawei phones and laptops, Amazon has not. Like other vendors, Amazon has not commented on its decision.

Huawei reportedly canceled the launch of a laptop at CES Asia following the Trump order, The Information reported. A Wall Street Journal report claims that Huawei could suffer as much as a $30 billion hit from the Trump administration’s decision. 

This story was updated at 3:59 PM PT with additional comment from Microsoft.

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Categories
Computing

Are Huawei laptops safe? Intel, Microsoft promise support, but the future remains uncertain

As the U.S. Government’s ban on Huawei grinds on, the biggest questions consumers likely have are whether that Matebook laptop on Amazon is safe to buy, or whether the Huawei machine they’ve already bought is safe. After all, if Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm and other U.S. tech companies can no longer sell chips to the Chinese tech company, isn’t the company basically dead to you?

The answer likely depends on whether you care about Huawei’s future as a PC maker, or if you only care about your particular future with a Huawei laptop.

What the U.S. ban on Huawei means

The ban on Huawei, enacted in May, essentially forbids U.S. companies from doing business with the tech giant. Obviously, if Huawei is unable to buy CPUs from Intel or AMD, or graphics chips from AMD or Nvidia, let alone memory and storage from other U.S.-based companies, it likely means any future Huawei PC laptops are in limbo.

More important for consumers is what happens to the Huawei laptop in your hands, or the Huawei laptop sitting on the store shelf in front of you.

Huawei Matebook 14Dan Masaoka / IDG

Huawei’s Matebook 14 has one of the most unique ways ever to hide a camera in a laptop.

Microsoft and Intel will suppport Huawei laptops

The best news for potential buyers of Huawei laptops (and those who have them already) is Microsoft’s promise that those all-important Windows Updates will still get to you.

“We remain committed to providing exceptional customer experiences,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement given to PCWorld. “Our initial evaluation of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision on Huawei has indicated we may continue to offer Microsoft software updates to customers with Huawei devices.” The company didn’t detail any more of its policy, but that should ease fears that your Huawei laptop will develop unpatched security holes.

Security risks can happen at the motherboard level, too. With scary-sounding exploits like Zombieload, you may be wondering whether firmware updates for the UEFI/BIOS will also be available for a Huawei laptop.

The news there also looks good, as Intel has confirmed with PCWorld that it will provide security updates and drivers to end users running Intel chips.

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