HTC to make first Android handset

Best known for enterprise-focused Windows Mobile handsets, HTC's phone using Google's Linux-based platform will extend its consumer portfolio

HTC, the mobile-handset manufacturer best known for its Windows Mobile smartphones, is set to become the first vendor to release a handset using Google's Linux-based software stack, Android.

Android, which comprises all the elements of mobile software, from operating system to applications, was announced by Google on Monday after months of speculation.

HTC said on Tuesday it would release its first Android-powered device into the European market in the second half of 2008. The company is then likely to produce more such devices, both under its own brand and under the brands of its operator partners.

Sources close to Google confirmed that HTC will be the first manufacturer to bring an Android handset to market.

Florian Seiche, HTC's European vice president, said that the company's goal was to provide a "broad portfolio" of devices targeting various segments of the market, from consumer to enterprise. Android devices, he said, would fall squarely into the relatively new consumer side of HTC's business, targeted this year with the Touch phone.

"The core nature of Android is the fact that the internet should be put right at the centre of your mobile experience," said Seiche. "It is fair to say that it will be very much focused on the growing part of the consumer market that is using mobile devices for much more than voice calls and text messages."

Seiche claimed that HTC was "fairly far along" in the development of the handset, as demonstrated by the time frame for the device's release.

Technical details of the device are currently scarce — many aspects of the platform will only become apparent when the Android software developer kit (SDK) is released next week — but Seiche hinted that "it's fair to say that touchscreens are becoming extremely important for providing user experience".

Seiche was also keen to confirm HTC's commitment to the Windows Mobile platform on which it has built much of its business. "Indeed, we plan to grow our leadership position with the Microsoft platform," he added.

Many other manufacturers, including Samsung and Motorola, will also bring out Android-powered handsets, as signified by their participation in the Open Handset Alliance, which Google has created to further the platform's development. According to Seiche, this broad adoption will make Android more successful than previous mobile Linux initiatives.

"The key difference is that Android is truly designed to be an open mobile platform," said Seiche. "The platform element means that, even though there will be hundreds or thousands of mobile devices brought to market… applications and content can be exchanged from one device to another without any issues for interoperability, which is not the case for several of the Linux devices today. The advantage is partly for manufacturers, but the far greater benefit is for the mobile consumer, who can exchange content with his peers."


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