HTC was the first mobile device maker to introduce a smartphone for the Android platform. Now it might be the second, third and fourth as well.
Peter Chou, CEO of the Taiwanese handset manufacturer HTC, told The Wall Street Journal that it will bring out at least three new Google Android smartphones this year.
They include the HTC Magic, which Vodafone UK will distribute exclusively in the UK, France, Germany and Spain beginning in April. Speculation is still rife as to what the others will be.
The Android smartphone platform has been growing rapidly since Google unveiled it about 16 months ago. “Android did impressive volumes in the first year of its shipping,” Bill Weinberg, principal analyst at LinuxPundit.com, told LinuxInsider. “Depending on whom you speak to, they shipped as high as 1 million units.”
Interest in Android is wide and deep, Weinberg said, and all the main players in the smartphone ecosystem are taking the platform as a strategic investment.
Who Is HTC?
HTC was founded in 1997 and has established partnerships with major mobile carriers, including the top five operators in Europe, the top four in the U.S., and many fast-growing mobile carriers in Asia, according to its Web site. These partners include Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone, Cingular, Verizon, Sprint and NTT DoCoMo.
The company used to be an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) handset maker, and it launched its own brand about 18 months ago. It started with phones made for the Windows Mobile platform.
Nokia, Research In Motion and Motorola dominated the smartphone market in 2008, and HTC lagged behind them with roughly 5 percent of the total market, according to research firm IDC’s figures.
Playing Both Sides
At the Mobile World Congress 2009, held in Barcelona, Spain, last month, HTC made nice both with long-term partner Microsoft and newbie Google. It demonstrated the HTC Magic with Vodafone and unveiled new Windows mobile phones with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
These are the HTC Touch Diamond2 and the Touch Pro 2, both of which will run Windows Mobile 6.5. They will be available later this year.
Windows Mobile is a major player along with the iPhone and Android smartphone operating systems, although Microsoft is mainly holding its ground, according to Weinberg. “Microsoft has just been incrementally enhancing Windows Mobile and hasn’t made any huge gains in market share,” he said.
The Growth of Android
That static approach may cost Microsoft, as Android is growing rapidly. In December, 14 more companies joined the Open Handset Alliance, which was set up around Android.
They include chip manufacturer ARM Semiconductor, ASUSTek Computer, Atheros Communications, mobile phone maker Ericsson, Garmin, China’s Huawei Technologies, Omron Software, Sony Ericsson, Vodafone and Toshiba.
“Android is a free, open source mobile platform,” Google spokesperson Carolyn Penner told LinuxInsider. “This means that anyone can take the Android platform and add code or download it to create a mobile device without restrictions. We look forward to seeing what contributions are made and how an open platform spurs innovation.”
Perhaps HTC is being spurred by the openness of Google, but Weinberg points out that it could have problems meeting its ambitious goals for Android smartphones.
“HTC did their first volume business as a Windows phone producer,” he said. “Windows Mobile accounts for the majority of HTC’s volume, it’s 10 or 12 to 1 right now versus Android, and it’s interesting to evaluate how much of HTC’s capacity can be dedicated to Android without cannibalizing their cash cow Microsoft business.”