Now is the time for HTC to get back into the tablet market

July 21, 2014
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HTC may be making a big comeback into the tablet market this year, if @evleaks’ latest report is to be believed.

Despite recurrent rumors, HTC hasn’t launched a tablet since the forgettable Flyer, in May 2011, but now may be the right time to attempt a return.

According to @evleaks, the Volantis is known internally as T1, while HTC has two other tablet devices in the works, codenamed T7 and T12.

HTC is widely expected to launch an 8.9-inch “Volantis” Nexus tablet in collaboration with Google this October, a move that will likely generate a brand uplift that other HTC tablets could profit from.

That’s all the info we have so far on HTC’s tablet efforts besides the Volantis. Despite a recent massive blunder on the Volantis, @evleaks has generally been reliable when it comes to HTC devices, so we’re pretty confident that this report is accurate.

Design was not the 2011 HTC Flyer's strong suit

Design was not the 2011 HTC Flyer’s strong suit

The time is right

Company leadership has suggested in the past that HTC didn’t abandon the tablet market. “When the tablet comes out it will be something nice and disruptive,” said Chairwoman Wang back in October 2013, without giving more details. Here’s why we think it makes a lot of sense for HTC to launch its own-brand tablets this year.

First, it’s a matter of economy – developing a tablet from scratch with Google is likely costly for HTC, even if Google is footing part of the bill. That’s true in financial terms, but also when it comes to the technological and human resources that HTC has likely already sunk in the project. So why not put that knowhow to work?

Second, launching a Nexus opens a window of opportunity that HTC would be foolish not to take advantage of. Just look at LG, and how much it grew since it launched the Nexus 4; the same goes for Asus, who greatly improved its global brand image with the Nexus 7, though it ultimately failed to turn the marketing boost into meaningful sales for its other devices.

Put simply, building the new Nexus is the best launching ramp HTC could ask for.

tablet sales

A global slowdown in tablet sales could throw a wrench into HTC’s plans. But even as our love affair with the tablet concept is cooling down, HTC still has a lot to win from a successful relaunch in the market.

The move could help reduce HTC’s dependency on smartphones, one of its weaknesses compared to other Android OEMs. Unlike Samsung, LG, or Sony, HTC can’t fall back on a side business when it falls onto hard times in the smartphone business, like it’s been happening for the past couple of years. The company has been doing better lately, recording a little profit in Q2, but that profit was thanks to cost cutting measures – in fact, HTC actually made less revenue compared to the same period of last year. So every source of new revenue could help, no matter how small. That may include tablets, but also smartwatches and other wearables – the company’s first Android Wear device (recently leaked by the same @evleaks) could launch this August.

The big question is will customers love HTC’s tablets enough to make a meaningful impact? If HTC manages to bring good specs and an exquisite design, without inflating the price tag too much, there’s a good chance customers will embrace the Volantis, T7, and T12. Despite Samsung’s best efforts, there’s still a dearth of beautiful premium Android tablets, and HTC could fill that niche.

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