Microsoft President Brad Smith weighs in on Huawei and the US government

What you need to know

  • Microsoft President Brad Smith discussed the U.S. government and Huawei in a recent interview.
  • Smith discusses the role of governments regarding technology further in his upcoming book "Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age."

Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, recently discussed the U.S. government's treatment of Huawei in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. Smith shared some of his efforts to discuss the export ban list and Huawei with U.S. regulators in the interview.

Smith stated that actions like that of the U.S. government in relation to Huawei should not be taken without "sound basis in fact, logic, and the rule of law." According to Smith, Microsoft has asked for clarification from the U.S. government and received vague explanations.

Oftentimes, what we get in response is, 'Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us. And our answer is, 'Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That's the way this country works.'

President Trump has previously stated that Huawei is a national security threat, and the U.S. Department of Commerce added Huawei to the export blacklist. Huawei being on that list affects the company's ability to sell devices because the list restricts U.S. companies from selling products to certain Chinese companies. As a result, Huawei has had to look for alternatives to Android for its phones and has delayed product launches. The blacklist takes full effect in November following several months of heated discussions and extensions.

Huawei Mate 30 could launch without an official build of Android or Google apps

Smith added that the export blacklist puts the survival of companies at risk.

To tell a tech company that it can sell products, but not buy an operating system or chips, is like telling a hotel company that it can open its doors, but not put beds in its hotel rooms or food in its restaurant. Either way, you put the survival of that company at risk.

In addition to discussing the effects of the export ban list on Huawei, Smith also addressed potential upcoming restrictions on emerging technologies with Bloomberg Businessweek, stating, "You can't be a global technology leader if you can't bring your technology to the globe."

Smith further discusses the U.S. government, China, and several issues facing the technology industry in his upcoming book "Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age." The book is co-authored by Carol Ann Browne and comes out September 10, 2019.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

22 Comments
  • Expect an angry tweet.
  • Finally, an 'American' is speaking out.
  • LOL, I think his argument has more to do with potential loss of revenue then the security of the country. Maybe he's more un-American?
  • That should be true if only we ever see the risk(s) in question.
    Thus far, No proven or verified technical details that their devices have breached anything from anyone, any business organization, any security entity or any other government.
  • There is no proof that our security is threatened, so your assumption is not founded in fact. There is no basis for you to call someone un-American for speaking out or having a difference of opinion, one has the right in this country and its called the 1st Admendment, but only people who believe anything and everything that comes out of this white house is a bit ignorant. The U.S. government in relation to Huawei has to do with one thing, the control of the internet and 5G. The U.S. government has rights to be concerned as to which country would ultimately control the 5G, but to say that Huawei is somehow causing some national security issues with out proof from this government is questionable, and there is a lot of that coming from this White House on a daily basis.
  • As I wrote in more detail in another post here the issues is not what Huawei have done, but the potential damage if they did. The government judges they can't have Huawei delivering key communications infrastructure, and this is understandable. However, blocking Huawei from selling devices in the US, and even buying parts or using services made by US companies is something else, and is not a matter of security. This is politics, leverage, nothing more.
  • "I think his argument has more to do with potential loss of revenue"
    Realistically speaking, Huawei is a drop in the bucket for Microsoft for Windows 10 licenses. HP, Dell, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, ASUS, Acer, Panasonic, Toshiba, hell, probably even CHUWI are much more significant. Huawei is new to all of this PC stuff. So, let's not kid ourselves about what Huawei represents to MS for money. This is a company that just killed off its entire phone business after 14 years.
  • I totally agree with Brad Smith. Huawei is not, nor has ever been a security risk for America.
  • Allowing enemy state controlled and majority owned corporation into national technology infrastructure alone is security risk and economic risk for USA in absolute terms. Allow USA corporations equal access with same types of government ownership and control over there and we’ll call it even.
  • While that point may be accurate, let's stick the case at hand with Microsoft: they're just talking about Windows 10 licenses, not backhaul networking tech, which is another matter.
  • And you know this how.....
  • Study history. It doesn’t just apply to a narrow focus. When USA participated before and then after Pearl Harbor, certain industries were government controlled for support of the war and it’s allies. Now that war is about technology infrastructure, how would USA commandeer foreign enemy nation for cooperation. It’s a literal Trojan horse just by ownership. Just shutting down the infrastructure alone could be done. The internet from hardware perspective has now become part of every nation infrastructure just like transportation or electricity.
  • Yes I agree with you, my reply was to the guy that said "Huawei is not, nor has ever been a security risk for America."
  • Because a lot of security researchers and experts have not found anything to even suggest that Huawei is acting in the manner Trump and others have described. It just came about as part of a hypothetical and anti-China rhetoric. It's exactly the same as people saying that Microsoft has purposefully written backdoors into Windows for the NSA. There will be many who say it's so with absolutely no proof, but no one credible in the infosec field is saying it's happening.
  • Every cyber security specialist at work bans or restricts anything Chinese from our critical digital asset program. This is an internal policy put in place with no government involvement, based on industry cyber experts that continuously flow through our business. Huawei may not be doing any harm, but it appears they might be too close to those who are. Too close to take a chance anyway.
  • Let's make an uninformed argument for instance.
    U.S and China suddenly have Trade agreement, then, Ban on Huawei is lifted
    Q. What aligned what with what?
    I do believe if both reach trade deal, that ban will be lifted, So, what and where is security issue?
  • Two different cases. Even if the latest ban is lifted, the US government will most likely deny Huawei from delivering key communication infrastructure components. Huawei would however be allowed to use software and hardware sold by US companies. And perhaps be allowed to sell phones to US citizens. Government employees could get restrictions though.
  • Huawei are pretty much a no-no here in the UK too
  • What?
    Go **** yourself mister president. See, I can say **** like that without anything happening to me. Well, in western countries that is.
  • I think people need to keep their apples from their oranges when discussing this. And let it be clear, I'm not American. Is Huawei a security risk? Yes, Huawei is a huge security risk, and anyone with a tad of experience doing risk assessments knows how this works. You look at probability, and you look at potential damage. And you try to remidate any potential risk or damage. In this case we need to look at the base core of the issue, being Huawei delivering core communication infrastructure to the US as well as devices. Then we need to consider the fact that it is close to impossible to determine if these devices are voulnarable or not. On the flip side, no such activity have been proven, neither physically or through intel available to us. They might know more. In any case, in a threat assessment the probability can be set at low if we go by what we know thus far. I bet somebody in the US disagreed with me there. However, it does not matter. Because the next step is to determine the potential damage. And this is where the red lights goes off in the US government. Now, they can either say, the probability is so low, we can live with the risk. Or they need to find a way to make those red lights green. In this case the US decided to deny Huawei from delivering components to key communications. And this assessment is understandable. But, then there's the recent blockade of Huawei, not only denying the company access to the US market as a whole, but also denying US companies dealing with, and even selling components and services to Huawei. This is a different case entirely, and thus has nothing to do with security. This is about politics, trade and economy.
  • Well said. Separately, I'll add this issue goes back to 2014. Long before the current administration. I don't think anyone, certainly not Microsoft, is entitled to see the evidence, just because they ask for it. How long can you ask Haiwei to "stop that?"
  • But, somehow, you knew about the evidence?