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HTC will still make phones - but should it bother?

HTC is getting a bucket of cash for Google, but most of its top-talent is leaving. HTC will still be making phones, but we had to ask if it still should.
September 23, 2017

I’m not a CEO, nor do I play one on TV. But that didn’t stop me last week from telling TCL what’s what about the Palm brand. Nor, will it stop me from talking about HTC and where its focus should be. If you haven’t been watching the feeds, welcome back. Google has done its best University of Alabama impression and thrown some steak dinners at HTC, its new starting quarterback. I don’t watch football – that’s still a thing right? Anyway, Google picked up a few good men and women from HTC, plus some intellectual property, for the bargain price of 1.1 billion dollars, also known as “the revenue Google acquired in the time it took to write this article”.

Google has bought a really solid team of engineers and research and development. Mad props. And the good news for HTC is that it will still make smartphones. But now the question remains, should it? I mean, don’t get me wrong – I’m as much of a fan of HTC phones as the next guy. But, to me this looks like a desperate, yet necessary move to keep HTC afloat. The money was needed to keep HTC running, and that’s perfectly fine.

All it took was $1.1 billion for a part of HTC to be a part of Google

Where did all the talent go?

But now that HTC has sent a lot of its top-tier talent to Mountain View, is there any point in making phones anymore? I mean, HTC made some really great phones – I’m not sure they were 1.1 billion dollars great, but the hardware has really been gorgeous. The HTC 10 is probably one of my favorite HTC phones of all time. But with the talent that is leaving for Mountain View now gone, what more will HTC have up its sleeve? It’s true that most of the people that were acquired were already working on Google’s Pixel phones, but it’s a valid question to be asked.

Of course, it’s not like HTC’s innovation and tricks have been servicing it all that well. The whole reason this deal had to take place was because HTC hasn’t exactly been burning up the sales charts. In fact, our own Tristan Rayner wrote a piece detailing just what went wrong over the years.  I joked with a colleague earlier that maybe HTC needs to stop innovating and just release a few boring HTC phones to get back in the game. But honestly, with so much of the talent now gone, is HTC even still in the game?

Look to the future

HTC would be wise to push VR, and push it hard.

Speaking of games, one game where HTC is definitely doing well in the world of VR. The HTC Vive is a wonderful device and a leader in its field. HTC is doing very well with the Vive and might be better off focusing on that aspect of its business. Namely, not requiring a $10,000 freakin’ computer to run it. Or games; maybe games. But HTC hasn’t been doing well in the phone business. Maybe it’s time to double down on the part of the business that is actually doing well.

VR and AR are the future. In the world of gaming, business, you name it, just about everything can have a VR or AR use case. I hesitate to bring up Apple, but the prominence of AR in Apple’s latest event cannot be ignored. AR was doing well before and it will continue to grow. VR, its closest cousin will undoubtedly continue along the same trajectory. HTC would be wise to push VR, and push it hard. Of course, HTC has been treating Vive as basically it’s own company, so it might even be too late to make this a primary focus for the brand.

Circling back, what more will HTC have to offer the phone world? Sure, there are probably already phones in the pipeline, so that’s fine. But what will come after those phones? Will HTC have the chutzpah to innovate like it did before? Or will HTC be relegated to producing, dare I say it, Yet Another Android Phone (#YAAP)? Then we get to the most important question – will we care about an HTC that makes boring Android phones? And perhaps that’s the question we need to examine.


This is an opportunity to flip the table and start fresh

HTC has a pretty great fan base, even if it is paid to be that way. Relax, I’m joking. But the reason it has this fan base is not because of swag, but because HTC makes really good phones. Sure, there have been some ultra-missteps along the way, but HTC is highly regarded in the industry – maybe not as much as Palm or Nokia, but easily in the top ten. Will HTC’s departing talent take anything away from the entity that is HTC? Honestly, probably not. Will it change public opinion of HTC? Honestly, probably not.

Because at the end of the day, this is an opportunity to flip the table on this game and start fresh. There will be a hole at HTC that will have to be filled with new talent and new ideas. That might be just what HTC needs to reinvigorate its brand. A fresh start, plus a billion dollars might be just what HTC needs to right the ship and restart its brand. But what do you think? Is HTC DOA after this? Or will HTC use this opportunity to push forward into a brave new world? Are there too many pop culture references in this article? Sound off below with your thoughts!