A lion in a cage. This is how Richard Yu appears on the big screen set up in the Classic Remise in Berlin, a fascinating vintage car museum in the city chosen by Huawei to present two new notebooks – the MateBook 16s and the MateBook D16 – and the new ones FreeBuds 2 Prohigh-end earphones that allow noise cancellation.
By Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer division, in Berlin there is only a pre-registered version. The last time we saw it live, in Europe, it was in the German metropolis in September 2019, on the occasion of the Ifa consumer electronics fair. Then Covid crystallized everything for two years, and the tech world lived on virtual presentations.
Now everything seems back to normal. There Classic Remise, which was once a train depot and now hosts numerous events, hosts hundreds of people in attendance. Few masks, Covid seems a distant memory. But Richard Yu, indirectly, reminds us that the grip of the virus is still strong: on people and on business.
The manager who once dominated the smartphone marketthe hero capable of surpassing Samsung and Apple, is a man like everyone else in the face of zero Covid strategy of the Chinese government. Shenzen, the city in the south of the country where Huawei has established its headquarters, holds its own 18 million inhabitants practically hostage. Richard Yu, obviously, is one of them.
Yu would have no problem a fly to Europe. The nightmare, if anything, concerns the return: once off the plane, the head of the consumer division of Huawei should face 14 days of quarantine. An infinite isolation, punctuated by one test a day for the first week, and then two more on the tenth and fourteenth day.
The cancellation of numerous international flights to China, a less operational port and the border with Hong Kong continuously at risk of closure, to contain the Covid outbreaks, have made Shenzhen a difficult place for its citizens, for those who intend to visit it and also for those who want business.
Ever since Shenzen became the heart of the country’s tech industryTaking advantage of China‘s early economic reforms and a rapidly expanding port, the city’s economic growth has increased by 20% annually. This rise that began in 1979 has slowed sharply due to the pandemic. In the first quarter of 2022 the city is only grown by 2%. A fact that worries China and the rest of the world that depends on its technology and its shipments.
And so the launch of the new products on the European market touches once again, in fact, a William Tian, president of Huawei’s Consumer Western Europe division, which does not start with fireworks, on the contrary. Behind him they appear three products for those who work in the office, or even at home, remotely. There is a monitor. And there is a printer. Who would have thought, just three years ago, that the first company in the world to launch one smartphone pieghevole he would start his presentation by (also) talking about a printer.
Yet all this makes sense, for Huawei and probably for the market itself, which has seen growth since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. the application for personal computers, modem routers and yes, even printers. The Huawei Pixlab B5 is certainly not the product with which the Chinese company imagines returning at the center of consumers’ attention.
But the printer also fits into a larger digital ecosystem, which Huawei is trying to build with its products. Computers, smartphones, tablets and monitors connected by the Super Device system: one becomes an extension of the other. Too bad to have lost the fundamental piece, the Huawei smartphone, which today buys those who are satisfied with HarmonyOS and the App Gallery which, in the last two years, has also been enriched with numerous apps and developers.
It is no coincidence that Tian, presenting the two new MateBooks, starts with two tools related to smart working, webcams and microphones, improved thanks to artificial intelligence. Now those in a video meeting are followed by the webcam even if they move. This is a function that Apple for example has introduced in the latest iPad. And the 1080p webcam of the MateBook 16s and D 16 can also fix the gaze: with Eye Contact even if we look at the keyboard, whoever is connected with us will see our eyes on the camera. The smart microphones, two on the 16s and four on the D 16, will eventually be able to capture our voice up to 5 meters awayworking on the background noise or buzz to isolate and cancel it.
American borders remain closed for Huawei. And Canada recently joined the countries they banned Huawei’s 5G networks. The free market at the moment is a utopia for the Chinese tech giant, but in the future who knows, these days it is already a success to resist, for everyone.
And Huawei, apparently, does it well, it is strong from a brand that in recent history has gained the trust of consumers. That flower can bloom againperhaps with different colors, tending to purple in the case of the MateBook, with that silver gray which has become a hallmark of the Shenzen-based company’s notebooks. Meanwhile, in China, the company founded by Ren Zhengfei continues to sell its smartphones. And recently it has started collaborating with car manufacturers in the country: Huawei does not produce electric vehicles, as some might think having distractedly read the news. The Chinese company is more interested in developing the software that regulates autonomous driving, to compete with Tesla. Maybe one day. And also on 5G Huawei seems to have a plan B, the expansion in Africa that has already begun, with a agreement for networks in Kenya.
Like a boat in the middle of the perfect storm, Huawei juggles to find hers balance between the waves. For some years now, the Chinese giant has been sailing in troubled waters. But the wind, the breeze and the foam must have tempered the hearts in Shenzen, because the company continues to surprise with very good products at a very attractive price.
The new MateBook 16s and Matebook D16for example, they represent a decisive step forward in conquering a slice of consumer market in which Huawei, we recall, launched only five years ago. What was good in previous models served as a starting point: i premium materialthe minimal and elegant design, that silver gray color tending to violet that makes the notebook immediately recognizable, the ridiculous weight (to be a sixteen inch) and the reduced thickness.
Everything else has been improved. Starting from webcam of the old MateBook 16 sticking out of the keyboard. It is now on the thin upper bezel, in its proper position, away from the fingers beating on the keyboard and making it decidedly creepy typing during a work call. And then, among other things, the display is now touch. And the MateBook D 16 has an unprecedented numeric keypad and includes an integrated antenna, called Metaline, which promises more efficient Wi-Fi signal reception, to the advantage of gamers but also of those who frequently make video calls and cannot count on range. extender.
Both computers can already be ordered and will be available from July, also in Italy: the MaeBook 16s, the one with the most powerful processor and the best quality display, is on sale for 1,699 euros; the D 16 instead has a more affordable price: 999 euros.
In Berlin Huawei also presented FreeBuds 2 Pro. Made in collaboration with the French company Devialet, the new earphones have two audio drivers and two independent speakers: one pair takes care of the bass, the other of the mid and high frequencies. We wore the new FreeBuds for a few hours in Berlin: the sound performance is very good, the bass in particular can be perceived clearly and distinctly. Huawei, on this device it will sell to 199 euroseems to have worked a lot on noise cancellation: the Chinese company claims to have moved on from an attenuation of 40 dB to an attenuation of 47 dB thanks to the use, for the first time, of three microphones. To give an example, the Apple AirPods Pro earphones, which Huawei wants to compete with its new device, promise – at least on paper – identical attenuation.
Huawei’s desire to improve is out of the ordinary. In particular, one datum says it: in 2021, Huawei spent $ 22 billion on research and development, equal to 22% of its sales – that’s more than any company outside the United States has invested. Given the proper economic proportions, Amazon and Alphabet – the company that controls Google – invest half. Apple even a third less.
All this, according to a study published in January 2022 by Ifi Claims Patent Services, has resulted in an incredible number of patents registered in the USA: there were 2,770 in 2021 alone. For registered patents, in short, Huawei is in fifth place in the world, despite the US sanctions which have greatly limited its range of action in America and above all the use of star technology and strips.
“We never stop innovating,” Richard Yu also said in his video message broadcast in Berlin. And this is it the spirit of those who work in Huawethe. “Innovation has always been central – says Steven Huang, Country Manager of the consumer division for Italy -. The company invests 10% of its revenues in research and development. There are 300 Huawei research and development centers around the world, three of which are in Italy ”. And he tells us how the Aesthetic Design Center in Milan, in particular, works for the company on a global level, contributing to the stylistic choices regarding the new products.