For most of HTC’s existence, it was a little-known cellphone manufacturer making more Windows Mobile phones than anyone else in the world. Now the Taiwanese company has ambitions to create its own brand and be recognized as making the best Android smartphones.
Turns out, it has just a few ideas on how to do that. Drew Bamford, HTC’s Director of User Experience, told mocoNews in advance of his appearance at paidContent Mobile next week, the bottom line is to sell more phones. HTC doesn’t own an operating system; it’s not getting into the advertising business, and rather than micro manage applications, it’s making its phones as open as possible so hundreds of thousands of developers can dream up the cool stuff.
Imagine Bamford stepping into a plutonium-powered DeLorean to give us a taste of what’s to come. Jokingly, he said HTC’s future won’t include hovering skateboards, but there were a few things that he was willing to nosh about. As a disclaimer, he says things could change: “HTC is always looking for new opportunities, but we are really happy building on Windows and Android. We can focus on the end-user experience, rather than the plumbing. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) do a lot to make it all work.”
From an observer’s point of view, HTC seems less ambitious than other handset-makers. For instance, Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is trying to reinvent itself into a services company, Samsung is building its own smartphone OS and partnering with big names from Hollywood, while Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) make everything from the hardware to the operating system and more. Instead, Bamford said the company’s software and user-interface engineers are focused on creating a better core experience. That means integrating Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and Plurk (an Asian-centric social network) into the OS. But they’ll stop short of building the services themselves.
HTC is also not interested in meddling in one of the biggest buzz words of the year: App stores. They’ll rely on Android and Microsoft to do that and focus on making the apps more manageable on the device. They can also help users discover new apps by allowing friends to recommend them over SMS, email, Twitter, etc., a feature that is already live on some phones in Europe. “The big advantage of Android is the built-in ecosystem, which is healthy and open. There’s no advantage to re-building it,” he said.
As it pertains to other hot topics, like ads and location-based services, here’s a peek at some of HTC’s views:
— Music: This is one area in which HTC has not made any acquisitions, unlike HP’s purchase of Melodeo, and Apple’s purchase of Lala. “Music is a weak link on the current Android experience…We’ll continue to work with more partners.” As for what HTC will do, they’ll focus on improving side-loading, and the logistics of syncing the music from the PC to the phone.
— Advertising: No acquisitions here, either. Despite its independence from all the ad networks, HTC doesn’t want to be left out of revenue-sharing agreements. “It’s important to have recurring revenues,” Bamford said. “I don’t have a huge role in the advertising space. The OS will control the network side of things, and I don’t see a model where we’d do advertisements in any of our apps. We have no plans to put them in our UI. We want to make the experience as good as possible to sell more phones.”
— Making HTC’s Sense more open: So far, HTC has only integrated four apps into their user interface called Sense, which sits on top of Windows Mobile and Android. That leaves many popular apps, like Foursquare or Pandora, completely out of luck. A solution is to build their own set of tools, so developers could create apps that work even better on an HTC product. There’s no API “yet,” Bamford said.
— LBS: Bamford said the integration of GPS and location-based services into applications is a no-brainer. Apps like, Gowala and Foursquare, are available on Android today, but Bamford said they are looking into more ways to integrate them deeper.
— Hardware driving features: Bamford said the innovations on the hardware side are leveling out with some aspects, like front-facing camera, gyroscope and 3D screens, being commonplace on phones soon. But the hardware is now being turned over to the developers to take things to the next level. Bamford: “The next wave of hardware when matched up with developers will create some really cool things.”
On July 20, at our paidContent Mobile, Bamford will participate in the panel titled The Future Of Mobile Content, which will discuss how the business has evolved from ringtones and wallpapers to location-based services and anything else under the sun that developers invent. The other speakers are: John SanGiovanni, co-founder and VP of product design at Zumobi, Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare and Michael Zimbalist, VP of Research & Development at The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) Company.