How can an Android smartphone maker hope to stand out from the crowd of other Android ODMs? One big way could be content and the user experience around it. Today HTC announced that it is buying Saffron Digital, a London/Los Angeles outfit that specialises in mobile content delivery services, specifically around video, for £30 million ($48 million).
For now, HTC and Saffron Digital say that getting purchased by one handset maker will not impact its current business of working with several of HTC’s competitors.
In Europe those customers include LG (SEO: 066570), Sony (NYSE: SNE) Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC), T-Mobile and Nokia; (NYSE: NOK) and in the U.S. Saffron works with Samsung. The company also has partnerships with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Wildvine; operators like T-Mobile and Vodafone; (NYSE: VOD) and content companies such as the UK broadcaster Sky and Paramount Digital Entertainment.
Saffron made its name in optimising video delivery to work across different mobile devices. Now Saffron says that it will use the HTC investment to extend its services into categories like games and music; and to grow its business in territories such as Asia.
For it part, HTC is making the investment to “increase our global service delivery capabilities and expertise,” says HTC CEO Peter Chou in the release announcing the news.
This is not the first instance of a device maker getting involved in video delivery services: just last week, Nokia was the lead invester in an $8 million funding round for VOD company Voddler. We are likely to see more of these deals as smartphone makers take advantage of faster networks, and faster devices, to better differentiate themselves from each other.
Saffron, which is currently headquartered in London and Los Angeles, expects to retain these offices; as well as its existing management team, which includes Shashi Fernando as CEO; David McDonald as COO; and Aaron Luber as the U.S. director of operations.