Firebrands insight: HTC. ‘Quietly Brilliant’ or brilliantly quiet?

Patent disputes. That’s what seems to be the order of the day with smartphones at the moment. Who stole whose technology? Which products should be banned? Who should pay who damages?…. Who really cares? Smartphone companies certainly do, however for the consumer it is less about who legally owns the right to the technology and more about who offers a better operating system and all round smartphone package.

HTC, which offers its customers the Google Android Operating System, and in fact offered the first android operating phone (the HTC Dream, for all you tech trivia fanatics out there) has not been left un-scathed by the patent wars of the past year. However for the moment HTC is safe, having recently won a patent battle against the all powerful demi-god that is Apple. Coincidentally it was on its day of triumph over Apple that HTC saw one of its best scores on Firebrands. Unfortunately others have not been so lucky; with Apple winning the recent patent dispute against Samsung in 6 of its 7 cases it is paving the way for a monopoly on technology and intellectual property. There are fears among technology analysts that this will usher in a period of Apple dominance in the US with increased prices and less consumer choice, neither of which the consumer wants.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and the prosperity that HTC has witnessed in the last few years could be coming to an abrupt end if reports of financial ailments are anything to go by. First came the failed investment in Beats Audio which cost the company around $5 million. Second was the even greater dent to its pride in the form of a $40 million failed investment in the cloud gaming platform ‘OnLive’. The combination of these two events has led to share prices in the Taiwanese telecommunications giant reaching a record low. There is now speculation that HTC could become a purely hardware assembly company.

‘Quietly Brilliant’, or brilliantly quiet. There is still hope for HTC, and it comes in the form of silence. Silence in the world of social media. There is not a single mention on Twitter of the patent disputes from the official HTC accounts (even the ones it won), or the investment losses (not that anyone in their right mind would advertise to their customers the losses they are making). HTC is maintaining its norm on Twitter of frequent conversational and engaging discussions – is this a self-delusional facade or a conscious decision to not let recent events filter unnecessarily through its fan base where no doubt, the gravity of the situation, albeit already grave, would take on a life-threatening tone? The latter seems somewhat more likely.

HTC is currently on the brink and it will be interesting to watch HTC’s performance on Firebrands in the near future as the recent events of the smartphone world come into full effect. On one side for HTC lies salvation in the form of renewed vigour and investment; on the other side lies the abyss that is Apple domination. Either way is still a possibility for HTC, and for the benefit of diversity and non-conformism; good luck HTC!

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