HTC and Windows Phone 7: The end of total customization

Original author: Ross Rubin
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HTC HD mini
Throughout the entire existence of Windows Mobile and Android, all manufacturers talked about unconditional support for these platforms, but released an insanely small number of phones, focusing on their own problems. Everything, but not HTC. The company has created such a number of Windows Mobile and Android smartphones that companies never dreamed of at times exceeding HTC. HTC also created the first Android device. At Mobile World Congress 2009, Microsoft called HTC an exceptional partner, while the search giant is selling the Google Nexus One smartphone created in HTC.

HTC has done a truly tremendous job, and not just stamping a huge number of devices for the mentioned operating systems. They attracted attention due to the unique design, which includes some of the largest displays, the best QWERTY keyboards, as well as a variety of clever solutions: for example, the speaker in Touch Pro 2 turns on when the phone is placed with the screen down during a conversation. It’s definitely clear that HTC has invested a lot of money in developing advanced user interfaces for both mobile platforms: TouchFLO and Sense. But now that Microsoft has made radical changes to the concept of the Windows Phone 7 Series, HTC must change course and lose all the benefits of a single user interface for Windows Mobile and Android.
HTC Innovation

The strategy of a single user interface for the entire line of smartphones that HTC uses has always been perplexing. If a company really puts a lot of effort into creating a single interface standard for Windows Mobile and Android, is it necessary to support both platforms? But this question is no longer relevant. With the announcement of the Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft swung the pendulum away from open platform customization and set up iPhone-like rules, such as limited multitasking, an app store with manual verification of all applications, and a ban on using its own interface on top of the standard one. The latest ban leaves behind such interfaces as Panels from Sony Ericsson, S-Class from LG and TouchWiz from Samsung.

Quetly brilliantThis is a true Microsoft decision, which was taken in order to preserve the integrity of the platform. Although Microsoft did not directly declare this directly for previous versions of Windows Mobile, but in order to create something competitive, manufacturers had to redo some key elements (or almost everything, in the case of HTC) of the user interface of the system. Be that as it may, but Microsoft has changed the rules of the game, and with the ban on changing the user interface, a new question arises: how will the manufacturers differ from each other? - which makes special sense in the case of HTC. HTC may probably continue to license Windows Mobile 6.5 (or Windows Phone Started Edition, or whatever it's called), but this strategy is just a temporary solution that starts the timer.

Of course, HTC may decide to release devices with the Windows Phone 7 Series, relying on hardware designs aimed at fans. Then they will be able to highlight their devices in a niche where competitors such as LG and Samsung have a stronger economic position and brand recognition. Or they can remove support for all systems from Microsoft and concentrate on a single OS, as Palm and Motorola did at one time. Of course, such a solution will clash HTC and Motorola, as the main suppliers of Android devices, but unlike Samsung and LG, Motorola is not a global manufacturer. And the shell of HTC Sense looks preferable to MOTOBLUR. Thus, the "orphaned" HD2 can get an update to Android.

Despite this, Microsoft's improved OS will play into the hands of all licensees in one way or another. The differences between the products will not particularly help if these products are unnecessary to anyone. However, with the release of Windows Phone 7 Series, HTC’s competitiveness will weaken, as modifications to the user interface are now banned. It seems that the "reboot" of Windows Mobile has left one of Microsoft's key partners aside.

about the author

Ross Rubin is executive director of The NPD Group, a research firm, and author of the Switched On column on Engadget.


Of course, not everything is as sad as Ross is trying to imagine. HTC has a lot of established contacts with operators of various countries, especially Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, so there is clearly no need to worry about the success of the company's smartphones in the US market. Moreover, the ongoing partnership with Qualcomm (the supplier of System-On-Chip) and the acquisition of the renowned design company One & Co gives no reason to doubt the design and power of HTC devices.

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