EXCLUSIVE: A look into the future of Huawei in the Middle East

18 Oct 2017
POSTED BY Y Magazine

With built-in artificial intelligence, the Mate 10 will see, think and learn like us for us. Alvin Thomas sifts through the rumours and teasers about the personalised performance monster and Huawei’s brand new plans for Oman.

The anticipation is at an all-time high as we go into this week: it’s the launch of Huawei’s new Mate 10 smartphone and we’re mighty excited to catch the device in all its glory. Of course, by the time this article is out, the phone will have broken into the global smartphone market.

But, Huawei is only releasing its flagship in Oman on November 2 – and that means I have a good two weeks before people here can have a taste of what will be offered with the brand’s all-new device.

As of today, however, all I have on me is a bunch of teasers released by the company itself – some taking a fair shot at its competitors from the West (you know who I’m talking about) – and a galore of pixelated photos leaked out by those restless (yet irritable) tech websites.

I’ll tell you this, though: the rumour mill has been going crazy, and I’ve been quite anxious to jump on the bandwagon.

“Why?” you ask. Well, it’s because I hear the new Mate 10 is going to be the world’s first ‘Intelligent Machine’ and much less of an actual smartphone. And, if the teaser is anything to go by, the device ‘sees’, ‘thinks’ and ‘learns’ like us and ‘for us’ with its ‘built-in AI (Artificial Intelligence)’.

It’s creepy (sort of) but revolutionary at the same time. I sit down with the brand’s country manager, Bill Yu, to get first-hand information on Huawei’s new device and to learn about its strategies in the coming years.

Can you swiftly talk about Huawei as a company today and how much it has grown in the recent years? Also, could you elaborate on your role in the company?

Huawei has 180,000 employees (worldwide) and is a company driven by innovation, invention and imagination. We obsessively focus on bringing to the world devices that make people’s lives better. My role with Huawei is to build network distribution, complete sales targets in assigned areas and promote the company and brand as per the company’s overall operating strategy; to extract the appropriate mode of operation of the regional market.

I have seen teasers of your new Huawei Mate 10 flagship device. What can you reveal to us about it?

Of course, by the time readers will see it, the phone would have been released internationally. But, for now, I can tell you that Huawei will deliver a truly personalised device to the consumer.

It will come packing a brilliant and intuitive Huawei AI Kirin 970 chipset. This is the latest in artificial intelligence that is brought to you by the brand. Years of research has gone into it and so it will definitely be a standout feature from flagship phones from other brands.

The Mate 10 will also function at a much higher speed, and with faster responses, higher user privacy, and far better reliability and efficiency. This is because it is no longer necessary to upload data from the device into the cloud and then have the processing done there.

The new NPU (numeric processing unit) also makes the device more secure with higher user privacy. The power and data consumption of the NPU are also much lower compared to that of the cloud-based AI.

We are taking smartphone photography to the next level. Our device – using AI – will truly know and understand its users by supporting real-time image recognition, voice interaction and intelligent photography. German imaging company – Leica Camera – is also helping us in achieving our milestone.

What lies in store for Huawei in the field of AI (artificial intelligence)?

In short, Mobile AI = On-device AI + Cloud-based AI. Huawei is committed to developing smart devices into intelligent devices by building end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices and the cloud.

The ultimate aim is to provide users with excellent user experience. The Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances that will bring powerful AI features to our devices and take them beyond our competition.

We do not want to give our consumers a product that is half-made; we want it to be the best when it reaches your hands.

How is Huawei doing (in sales) in the Oman market? Are you taking any steps to make it more popular here?

Huawei started business in Oman in 2013. Now we rank second in the share of mobile phone units here. We cover everything from smartphones, tablets, wearables and accessories. Of course, we also have our share of Wi-Fi routers, dongles and other equipment.

As for the steps we are taking, we opened the first exclusive service centre in Muscat in 2014. We also have the Huawei consumer business group (CBG), which is dedicated to delivering the latest technologies to consumers and sharing the happiness of technological advances with more people around the world.

What is the biggest difference that you have found working here as opposed to anywhere else in the world?

The Middle East is a region with high-income consumers and a burgeoning middle-class; they represent a huge opportunity and valuable market for all global companies – not just Huawei. We are also constantly investing in the region. For instance, in 2003 we launched 3G connectivity in the region with Etisalat – a first in the Arab world.

We also established our consumer business group in 2011, and it now has a strong position in the region. The motto of this is to offer businesses solutions for their needs.

Apart from that – as you already know – Huawei is also gaining excellent market share in the region. We have 13.8 per cent share in the Middle East smartphone market. We’re always growing as a smartphone brand.”

Does the cultural difference pose any challenges for you? What methods do you use to penetrate the market?

The Middle East is actually a very diverse region with many languages and cultures. So, when we started building our brand here, we needed to make a number of adjustments. The first being the language: Oman is a country with an (almost) even split between locals and expatriates. This means a majority of the population speaks Arabic and English but others speak in languages such as Hindi, Urdu and Bengali. So, we built a local team in Oman with Chinese, Omani, Indian and Pakistanis. This means you will always feel comfortable conversing with our team.

Do you have any exclusive information on your future offerings in Oman; something that will make your customers happy?

As you know, the Huawei Mate 10 will be available in certain markets after October 16. But, for the Omani market, we are conducting an exclusive road show on November 2, at the Muscat City Center, in Seeb. In the coming years, Huawei will not only continue to bring exceptional products to Oman but also focus on improving customer service. As part of this, we will be opening a second service centre in Salalah, soon.

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