HTC's Peter Chou talks about smartphones for the masses, its relationship with Microsoft and everything in between…

30 Mar

Like we reported earlier this week, HTC today introduced its first device running on Qualcomm’s BREW mobile platform along with Airtel. The device will be available in India at Rs 9,990. HTC’s CEO, Peter Chou, sat down with CellPassion in a candid interaction where he talks about the impact smartphones will have on the society apart from the company’s OS strategy, its competition and partners. Some edited excerpts:

After Windows Mobile and Android, today HTC has yet another platform – Qualcomm’s BREW MP. What is the OS strategy here?

We are very committed to Windows Mobile. It is a very valuable platform and some of our products on that OS have been very successful. The HD2 has sold very well everywhere in the world. Since we started shipping it in November, we are facing lot of shortages but that’s good. The product has been very successful. We are also working on Windows Phone 7 and we hope that should be coming out by the end of this year.

On Android, we have been working very closely with Google. We are creating lots of products.

Now, we are creating another category that we call smartphones for the masses. We think smartphones are very exciting but the problem with some of today’s smartphones like the HD2, the iPhone or the Hero – they are high-end, sophisticated, high technology devices that mass market consumers think is not for them. The price of such devices is also high so we created this new smartphone (the Smart) that has social networking capabilities, predictive messaging and Internet applications with really good experience like touch, HTC’s Sense UI and intuitive communicating experience. We have also included lots of great widgets found on HTC Sense that are useful widgets not like some others who put a touch panel on a phone but use widgets like icons that launch an application. That’s not a great widget.

The concept is that such phones (like the Smart) are not superphones but make the consumers experience what is data and mobile Internet. These are smartphones that will bring a lot of value to the society and will enable a lot of applications like social security, education. These are the areas where smartphones can have an impact in the future but we need to bring (the price of) the smartphones down for the mass market. This is what we intend to do with BREW and will not conflict with Android or Windows Mobile.

Will we see more products in this segment this year?

Well, we are creating a product portfolio so that we can let the consumer decide which phone to use. We don’t believe that one device can satisfy all. We don’t think HTC is able to say that this is one product for all.

Microsoft says that it won’t be possible for handset manufacturers and vendors to change the UI of Windows Phone 7. HTC has transformed the Windows Mobile market by its proprietary interfaces on Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 with TouchFlo and Sense. How does that impact your relationship with Microsoft and what do you plan to do with Windows Phone 7?

Nothing stands still forever. That’s what innovation is all about. You have to find new ways of doing innovation. I think we can innovate on Windows Mobile (sic) 7 in a different way and still give the HTC experience. But it won’t be exactly as it is on Windows Mobile 6.5. That’s ok, that’s fine. What’s important is when a product is coming from one company, the holistic experience of the hardware, the software, the quality, the brand experience… the whole thing must be very competitive. And I think that HTC is very competitive. We have a good relationship with Microsoft and Google.

What do you think about the ongoing price war in the Indian market. Samsung, for instance, is now retailing the Galaxy i7500 for about Rs 13,000 down from its recent price of Rs 24,000? Do we see HTC responding to it?

I don’t know but we think that our pricing strategy is very competitive. But some companies may do crazy things if their product is not selling or they have a lot of inventory or are seeking attention. But we don’t want to comment about that. What is important for HTC is our capability to show differentiation to the consumer. It is most important for us to get the consumer excited about our products and our brand. Then they are willing to pay a little bit more for our products.

The market size is very big and there is space for four to five suppliers in the smartphone segment. In three years from now, we want to be among the top three smartphone brands globally. We see a lot of momentum in our favour in the first quarter and I think we are in a pretty good position. But we need to continue to work hard.

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