Business Management

Huawei CEO: AI is for improvement, not an independent product

Digital transformation is an imperative for companies, and AI’s primacy function is to help simplify and drive efficiencies, according to Huawei.

Rotating CEO Eric Xu outlined the company’s priorities and strategy in the opening keynote at this year’s Analyst Summit in Shenzhen. Continuing themes from previous Huawei events, the main focus for the company remains Cloud, Digital Transformation, and video.

Mr. Xu said his company’s role was to “usher in an intelligent world and be a driver of an intelligent society.” This goal means all things sensing, ubiquitous connectivity – whether at work, home, fixed, or mobile – and all things connected to the Cloud.

Digital transformation and helping other companies achieve digitization “represents a new tipping point for growth” for Huawei and its customers, he said.

“Organizations have to become digitized so they can keep up with the pace of the modern world.”

As well as the need for Huawei to continue its own digitization journey, William Xu, Huawei’s Executive Director, emphasised that value of Digital Transformation beyond profit, saying it aids local economies. 

“Every $1 invested in ICT infrastructure generates $3 in new GDP growth. Huawei needs to become the benchmark of digital transformation to better support its customers and partners.”

The public cloud model is key to helping companies transform themselves, and will become the “basic infrastructure and core” for companies in the future. Huawei’s own Public Cloud offering – first introduced in 2015 - will help companies both migrate their applications to the cloud, but also enable them to develop Cloud-native services.

“Beginning in 2017, Huawei will focus on public cloud services,” said Xu the CEO. “We will invest heavily in building an open and trusted Public Cloud platform, which will be the foundation of a Huawei Cloud Family. This family will include public clouds we develop together with operators, and public clouds that we operate on our own.”


Investment for efficiency

Efficiency and investment were the key words of the keynote. Xu the CEO seemed to suggest Huawei was happy to spend large amounts finding ways to help companies become more efficient.

“Some people challenged our slow growth,” said Mr. Xu, but the company investing almost 15% of revenue into R&D will “grow into tomorrow’s competitive edge.”

He added that the company plans to spend a further $10-20 billion on research in the future.

Artificial Intelligence will play a key part of that future, but Huawei doesn’t have plans to release specific AI-based products. Instead, the technology will be embedded across the company’s entire range of products.

“AI is an impetus for improvement, not an independent product,” he said.

As ever, Huawei ensured plenty of focus was on the company’s desire for partnerships. With IoT, the company emphasised its role is enabling ecosystems, rather than offering apps or devices (smartwatches notwithstanding). With video, the focus was helping telcos offer video as a basic service as part of packages - in the say way data plans overtook SMS as the default offering – not creating or offering content.

“Any one single companies doesn’t have all the solutions,” said Mr. Xu, “we have to be part of the ecosystem, with Huawei as a leader.”


Quick take:

Repeated talks of investment emphasise Huawei’s continued desire to move away from its past and be seen as a big player rather than a copycat white box seller.

Although it’s not a new message – either for the company or for the tech industry as a whole – not talking about digital transformation would be remiss.

But while some companies like to big up their importance and involvement in these kinds of journeys, Huawei seem happy simply to work in the background and help companies just do it.

And in a time when Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the big buzzwords, Huawei’s nonchalance over the hype is surprising. Instead the company simply acknowledges it has a use but only in the background rather than at the forefront of all the marketing.


Also read:
Box CEO: Transformation is more than putting software on top of traditional business models
CA CEO: Every company will be judged by their technology
Huawei: Telcos have room to grow if they embrace the future
Huawei CEO: We’ll be number one smartphone vendor in five years
Huawei: Broadband needs to adapt for 4K, VR, and IoT
Huawei CEO: Connecting the next billion needs investment and collaboration


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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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