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Frank Meehan is stepping down as the CEO of INQ, the Hutchison-owned mobile phone maker that has been a trailblazer — if a very small one — in the mobile industry, with the first devices to integrate Spotify, Skype and Facebook into the phone’s browser. Ken Johnstone, who co-founded the company with Meehan and had been head of product and design, is stepping up into the role in his place — and that could mean further phones based around social networks such as Twitter, as well as smartphones developed on OS platforms beyond Android.
Although it has never been a dominant player, INQ has been something of a groundbreaker in the mobile device world. It was the first to include a physical button on a device that provided a direct link to Skype; it was the first to put Spotify on its devices; and it was one of the first to use APIs from Facebook to integrate the social network more closely on two of its Android-based models (one pictured here) — a customization that later got extended to Foursquare.
More recently, it hit the news when Meehan floated the idea of looking more closely at Windows Phone for handsets in the wake of Google’s acquisition of Motorola (NYSE: MMI) Mobility.
It will be interesting to see whether Meehan’s successor will follow through with Meehan’s strategies on devices. When mocoNews interviewed Johnstone earlier this year, he extolled the virtues of the Android platform, but was interested in WP7, too. And he didn’t deny that INQ could apply the Facebook/Foursquare model to other social networks like Twitter.
“We love Android. It’s a very capable platform,” he told mocoNews, but he also added that he thought Windows Phone 7 had “cool things on it, but it remains to be seen if it takes off.”
On the subject of incorporating other social networks into the Android experience — the Facebook integration means that the social network’s timeline and other services like the calendar appear directly on the user’s homescreen, among other features — he did not deny that Twitter might also be among those that will get the INQ treatment.
“We cannot go into any detail right now,” he said, noting that the company might have more to share at some point soon. “Mobile is a fast moving game and we need to facilitate other brands.”
Meehan himself is leaving INQ, but he is not leaving Hutchison altogether. He plans to stay on as an adviser to the CEO of Hutchison, Li Ka-Shing. In that role, he will “concentrate on the VC side” and look at more investments, according to a note from Meehan on Twitter.
That is something Meehan has been doing for some time already: he sits on the boards of several tech companies that Ka-Shing has invested in via his Horizons VC firm, including the music streaming site Spotify, news discovery site Trapit, the video-status update site Tout, the mobile internet company Tom.com and other undisclosed investments.