Handset manufacturer High Tech Computer (HTC), which supplies many operators with their "own-branded" smartphones and PDAs, is to start releasing devices under its own name.
The Chinese company makes high-end handsets powered by running on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile platform. In the UK, these are most known as products such as the SPV (Orange), XDA (O2) and MDA (T-Mobile). UK customers might also be familiar with HTC rebrands such as i-mate and Qtek.
The Qtek brand is already owned by HTC, and its customers are to be "migrated" to the new HTC brand, which will now operate using a new logo and Web site.
The first two handsets to be released under the HTC brand name will be the TyTN and the MTeoR, both of which will be released in late July. The TyTN (previously codenamed Hermes) is the first tri-band 3G Windows Mobile PDA, and the MTeoR (aka Breeze) is a 3G-enabled smartphone.
Peter Chou, HTC’s chief executive, said the company’s priority "would remain the same… supporting operator-branded products". HTC’s own-branded devices will be available only through channels where operators are not rebranding — Chou highlighted France and Italy as markets where the Qtek brand is already particularly strong and where HTC would concentrate its push.
Chou also promised that the company would be offering a comprehensive end-user support package for its own-brand and rebrand customers alike, saying: "We don’t have a plan to establish ourselves like a Motorola or Nokia [but will focus on] a long-term partnership with the market".
Observers have been predicting that HTC would launch its own brand since the start of June, when the company announced it was buying a majority stake in Dopod, which rebrands and sells HTC devices in Asia. This followed a denial of such plans at the release of HTC’s 2005 Q4 results.
Some have criticised HTC’s dominance in the Windows Mobile market, suggesting that innovation is being stifled by one company enjoying an 85 percent market share.
A major competitor to Microsoft’s phone OS could also be Linux, after six major players agreed this week to work together on a common Linux mobile platform.
But Microsoft’s Pieter Knook, who was present at the HTC launch, told ZDNet UK the advantage of Windows Mobile was that it brought a "unified environment" for phone applications such as contacts, dialler and email, whereas the use of Linux requires a decision for each component.
"We’ve pre-integrated, pre-tested and pre-built all these apps,” said Knook, who also claimed that Windows Mobile would lead operators to “subsidise the devices to a greater extent than a voice-only device because of [increased] data ARPU".
He also claimed that HTC’s devices were ideal for enterprise customers due to the flexibility with which company-personalised software and user interfaces can be integrated by the supplier. An example of this was the recent purchase of 500k customised HTC device by the US Census Bureau.
When asked whether HTC would also consider developing Symbian-based phones, Chou said: "This is not a good place to answer that".