HTC: Running out of tricks?

HTC: Running out of tricks?

Summary: Once you get past that first day gadget lust coverage of HTC's latest smartphones and first tablet will you remember any of these devices? Probably not.

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HTC for the last year and change has been a mobile darling. The company is the fastest growing device maker and has carried the flag for Android.

The momentum has been impressive. However, I'm beginning to wonder if HTC is running out of tricks. Why?

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, HTC unveiled its first real tablet entry---the HTC Flyer. This pup has a 7-inch screen and runs Android 2.3 as well as the company's Sense software. The big draw here is that HTC put its innovation into so called Scribe Technology, which gives you a good pen experience to take notes and draw pictures.

Now Scribe may get some folks like Matthew Miller interested, but the Flyer seems very me-too. It's another 7-inch Android tablet that doesn't appear to be ready to challenge Apple's iPad. HTC CEO Peter Chou says in a statement:

"We are progressing down a path as an industry when people will no longer be in a single device paradigm, but have multiple wireless devices for different needs; this is the direction we are moving."

I'm a bit underwhelmed. Is this HTC or Dell?

To be fair, we have to see the Flyer up close to form a definitive impression, but on paper it's so-so. If you really want to get my attention price it at $299.

HTC's smartphone announcement was also more of the same. HTC announced three new smartphones with its latest Sense software. It's very evolutionary. Toss in two smartphones that revolve around one-button access to Facebook and you round out the continuum.

Here's the question that lingers for me: Once you get past that first day gadget lust coverage will you remember any of these devices? Probably not. If you did a find and replace on the HTC statements you could easily replace them with other vendors. My working theory is that HTC had an early jump in 2010, but now is up against a very formidable Samsung, which has its Galaxy franchise. Meanwhile, Motorola is pushing the envelope a little with the Atrix at AT&T.

HTC may be in for a much more competitive 2011.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, HTC, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets

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35 comments
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  • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

    The pen technology is interesting but the battery operated stylus is old school. The original Tablet PCs had them and they did not work as well as the eventual active digitizer that was adopted. The HTC statements also imply that developers will have to write special apps to take advantage of the pen technology, which is not good.
    JamesKendrick
    • Another DEC Rainbow

      The attempts by Android device makers to resist being dragged into a commodity hardware market by 'differentiating' themselves is reminiscent of the early days of the PC market. None of the established computer makers wanted to directly "clone" the IBM PC, so they added various bells and whistles (like graphics processors) to make theirs "better." The trouble was, none of the developers would come along for the ride, because they were too busy trying to stay ahead in the IBM space to spend any time chasing those few people who would buy an 'incompatible' PC from DEC or Texas Instruments.

      Of the device makers, only Nokia has the volume to interest developers in pulling away from their projects on iOS and Plain Vanilla Android. But they went with Windows, which scares today's iOS and Android developers because they don't know which Windows heavyweights will jump out of the bushes at them if they enter that world. Plus, nothing Microsoft is an easy port from iOS or Android, both of which are at least Sorta Like Unix.

      I don't see these "differentiating factors" amounting to a hill of beans. The Android device makers had best brace themselves for a very low margin, cutthroat business where even their hit products won't be hits for more than a month or two before they get dethroned.
      Robert Hahn
      • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

        @Robert Hahn I think we are seeing this already. Android appears to be a generic OS with manufactures trying to find ways to justify large price tags and new products. Motorola's Atrix has insane internals but is it really all that different from an EVO 4g?

        WP7's take on differentiation is to offer manufactures a hub where they can offer brand specific apps that the user can choose to install on their own. I think that is a more balanced approach. Androids current method is not sustainable.
        retnep
      • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

        @Robert Hahn you mean like the evo has been for the last 8 months? and last I checked android was ahead of iOS in the number of devices sold (granted more device run android, which is 1 more reason why I like it better) as for android appearing to be a generic OS, thats exactly what it is, thats why it can run on so many devices, the problem is getting the carriers to stop contorting it and let us use it to its fullest capability, luckily this isnt extremely difficult since you can root them, but this is the same issue I have with my iphone, the darn thing is capable of so much more than Steve Jobs will let me do with it, except with the iphone SJ threatens to brick it if I do jailbreak it, I dont get that threat with android. and if I dont like something I can change it, try changing your interface on your iphone....
        nickdangerthirdi@...
  • wrong

    samsung has been the fastest grown device maker in 2010.
    facts, just facts. don't expect them on zdnet.
    banned from zdnet
    • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

      @banned from zdnet From the article: "My working theory is that HTC had an early jump in 2010, but now is up against a very formidable Samsung, which has its Galaxy franchise." Isn't that saying exactly what you are complaining he didn't say?
      kidtree
      • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

        @kidtree
        reading, just reading. don't expect that from "banned on zdnet."
        Andre Richards
  • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

    Sense is still the best Android interface I've seen. Then again; I would have expected a bit more from the Flyer, starting with a dual core, but that would have forced them onto Honeycomb and most likely a longer development time in order to integrate the Sense interface (which I think is better than Honeycomb's stock interface at this early stage). Handwriting-recognition to convert stylus notes into text wouldn't have gone amiss either. My dual-boot Ubuntu/Win7 netbook/tablet has this feature on the Windows side and as far as tech goes it's a comparatively 'old' device (Asus Eee PC 101MT).
    rikasa
  • Your opening paragraph is a straight out lie.

    HTC has been doing well but it is far from the fastest growing device maker. Samsung had, by far, the fastest growth in the "Smartphone" category capturing 26% of all growth in the smartphone category last quater. When you look at Samsung's smartphone shipments for the previous quater, that 26% capture translates to a huge personal % growth.

    Apple and Nokia each captured 19% of the growth and HTC was at 14%. An impressive showing but far from being the "fastes growing device maker'.
    Bruizer
    • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

      @Bruizer
      But where did they start?

      If I sell one unit last year and two this year, I doubled my volume. By that measurement, I would be growing faster than any of these guys.
      x I'm tc
  • On another note... Is it time for the true race to the bottom with Android?

    Where the only differentiation is price?
    Bruizer
    • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

      @Bruizer Competition between vendors drives down prices, but that's good for customers, and it's not a "race to the bottom". A race to the bottom, strictly speaking, is when competition between competing regulatory frameworks (e.g., of different nations) drives down standards.

      Anyway, it's not true that the only differentiation is price. Apart from UI enhancements such as HTC's "sense", and styling, there's the matter of hardware capabilities. As processors get faster, memory gets more capacious, and screens get higher resolution, application software gets more sophisticated, sucking up resources -- so customers continue to have a motive to buy the best new hardware at premium prices.
      Xenia Onatopp
  • Off Topic - Regarding ZDnet Surveys

    I am really getting sick and tired of the constant pop-ups asking me to take a survey including this article with one popping up in the middle of me reading the article.

    It makes view this site a horrible experience.

    Pop-ups making people click somewhere to get rid of them is a sure fire way to drive readers away.

    Please stop the stupid pop-ups.

    Thank you
    dragosani
    • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

      @dragosani ditto - and there was a popup ad on TOP of the popup survey today. At least they took that annoying page frame ad off...
      bubbatex
    • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

      @dragosani I suspect if you are using any browser published since the turn of this century that there is a simple setting in your prefs to turn off pop up ads. I agree on the 'horrible experience' but found that rather than railing at businesses taking advantage, as they should, of the technology I can also and simply block the experience.
      dheady@...
      • You mean using NoScript

        @dheady@... <br><br>Which I am going to start using again on ZDnet. This surveys are not the typical old pop-up. More of a java script or something launching and displaying them.<br><br>Yeah, I am probably going to have to switch back to Firefox with Ad Blocker and NoScript to stop it.<br><br>FYI, All of my browsers Firefox, Safari, Chrome, IE, and Opera are the latest versions. <b>/sigh</b>

        And why should we have to use technology like script and ad blocking to get a good experience from this site? The answer is that we shouldn't.
        dragosani
      • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

        @dheady@...
        The surveys are there for a reason. They are there to gauge the experience and improve it. It doesn't take long. Answer it.
        hoaxoner
      • Good Grief!

        @dheady@...

        LOL, NO
        dragosani
  • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

    HTC were Android kings in 2009 and 2010 but this offering is very lacklustre. Android 2.3 on a tablet, what are they thinking? Sense on Smartphones is excellent but this looks so lacklustre next to the Android 3.0 UI.

    New Samsung, LG and Motorola smartphones/tablets look much more impressive.

    The Desire S is virtually the same as last years model.
    bradavon
  • RE: HTC: Running out of tricks?

    Smart phones, like the early micro computer business, is a constantly evolving market place. BlackBerry changed things. Apple changed things. Android is changing things. No manufacturer can rest on its laurels for long, especially hardware only companies.
    dheady@...