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From one angle, HTC’s recent woes are simple: the products just don’t seem attractive as they used to be. Next year promises to be an important one for the company and its chief financial officer said Monday that a new batch of phones will get the Android smartphone maker back on track.
HTC enjoyed a pretty good position during the first few years of the Android boom, but it has lost ground to rivals like Samsung and Motorola (NYSE: MMI) in 2011 despite a strong position in the U.S. That has prompted steep cuts in its profit expectations for the year and questions from observers like Reuters wondering why HTC is “is not another Nokia,” something that CFO Winston Yung said isn’t going to be the case.
Yung told Reuters (NYSE: TRI) that HTC expects to ship 45 million smartphones next year (up from 25 million this year) and will also introduce LTE models at U.S. carriers as well as “world phones” that can work on a wider range of network technologies. “We will launch some worldwide flagship products. We’re confident in them,” he said.
There are certainly a few differences between HTC and Nokia: Nokia (NYSE: NOK) floundered for years while trying to figure out what to do with its hardware and software divisions, while HTC is a relative newcomer to smartphones and is one of the more high-profile Android vendors around the world. But HTC might be an example of something Nokia hoped to avoid when throwing its lot in with Windows Phone 7 instead of Android: the ever-changing pace of innovation as Android players attempt to one-up each other can make for rough times should one of those vendors make a bad bet on a phone design that year.
Given the uncertainty over how Motorola will fare should Google (NSDQ: GOOG) be allowed to purchase that company, there’s probably time for HTC to get back on track if Motorola loses a step in the transition to a Google-owned entity. But it also seems likely that patent concerns are taking a toll on the company and the profit margins it once expected to earn on Android phones, which is Microsoft’s basic goal in pursuing licenses with Android makers. HTC signed such a license in 2010.