HTC takes enterprise leap of faith

Taiwanese device maker eyes more enterprise dollars by working with developers on apps geared for corporate users, company exec says, adding first tablet equipped with enterprise features.

SINGAPORE--HTC is looking beyond its traditional consumer sweet spot and has taken steps to grow its enterprise business, according to a company executive.

At the Tuesday launch of the HTC Flyer, the company's first tablet device, Wayne Tang, Southeast Asia product marketing manager for HTC, said aside from enterprise-targeted features on the new tablet, the company has been exploring with developers to create applications specific to businesses. He was speaking to ZDNet Asia in an interview on the event sidelines.

According to Tang, enterprise customers are most concerned with applications and security. Currently, Google's Android platform, which powers the HTC Flyer, is "not very recognized" as an enterprise mobile operating system (OS), he noted, adding that Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS is a market leader is this space.

This, however, is set to change in future with the rising popularity of Android because enterprises will realize they will lose out if they do not embrace the OS, he said.

Targeting enterprise customers has its challenges for HTC, Tang acknowledged. Large enterprises, he noted, are unlikely to overhaul their systems for a new OS and hence likely to fall back on legacy systems such as the Windows Mobile OS and BlackBerry OS. With this in mind, HTC is first targeting the small and midsize businesses (SMBs), as these players in this sector are agile or able to switch their systems on "overnight", he said.

The HTC Flyer, he pointed out, includes some productivity features suitable for the enterprise such as HTC Scribe which, combined with the included stylus, allows users to jot notes on Web pages or documents. In addition, there is wireless printing capability built into the device and a feature called HTC Timemark which records soundbites when the note is taken so users can use it for future reference.

The tablet is built on Android version 2.3, codenamed Gingerbread, and is upgradable to the tablet-optimized Honeycomb, said Tang.

While Gingerbread is not tablet-optimized, Tang noted the HTC Sense user interface that sits on top of the OS was built from ground up to suit the tablet form factor and is "comparable" to a vanilla version of Honeycomb.

The HTC executive added that Google has imposed some "restrictions" for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) interested in producing Honeycomb tablets but said the issues can be negotiated as HTC has a close relationship with Google.

Tang added that HTC will continue to work with Google in spite of the restrictions as Android has "big potential" and the Taiwanese device maker is not interested in making its own mobile OS.

Tang also reiterated the company's stand that it will continue to work closely with both Google and Microsoft.

HTC's sales last year were boosted by its Android-powered handsets, the company said during its annual financial summary conference call in January.

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