Huawei of China is keeping a low profile at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019, the world's largest consumer electronics exhibition. In the past events, the Chinese telecom equipment giant delivered keynote speeches as a symbol of the rise of the Chinese IT industry. This year it will not deliver any keynote speech, and put laptops front and center instead of smartphones.
Huawei put in front of its booth the laptop “MateBook 13,” which was launched in November of last year. Huawei began selling laptops and tablets in the U.S. market back in 2016. The Matebook 13 is scheduled to go on sale in the United States starting at CES 2019.
In the past CES editions, Huawei showcased its flagship smartphone Mate series. It introduced the Mate 9 at CES 2017 and the Mate 10 at CES 2018. In particular, the Mate 9 garnered much attention as an artificial intelligence (AI) smartphone produced in cooperation with Google and Amazon.
Industry analysts say that Huawei decided to put a laptop front and center at CES 2019 in consideration of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. The South China Morning Post reported that Huawei's launch of a laptop at this year’s CES is a strategic decision prompted by the difficulties it faces in selling smartphones and telecom network gear due to security concerns in the United States. Unlike smartphones that require partnership with mobile carriers for sales, laptops can be sold immediately when retailers cooperate.
Huawei planned to launch the flagship Mate 10 in the United States last year through CES 2018 but its plan was scratched off due to the U.S. government’s security concerns. "Huawei’s failure to enter the U.S. market means a big loss not only to us but to U.S. mobile carriers. U.S. consumers will suffer the biggest damage," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei, in a keynote address at CES 2018.
Huawei is expected to focus on Mobile World Congress 19 (MWC19) that will kick off in Barcelona, Spain next month. In MWC 19, the company is expected to take the wraps off its first foldable phone, sparking off competition with Samsung Electronics in foldable phones.
Huawei is not the only Chinese company that is not enthusiastic about CES 2019.
The U.S. Consumer Technology Association said that 1,551 Chinese companies participated in the CES last year, but the figure slid 20 percent to 1,211 this year. Chinese companies' participation in the CES has been active thus far, to the extent of the CES being called a "China Electronics Show," but the number of Chinese exhibitors sank for the first time in four years. Unlike Huawei that opened its exhibition hall, Xiaomi even did not participate in the event at all.