Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC is planning to launch an online store for applications and e-books, the Financial Times reported Nov. 8., citing "two people with knowledge of the situation."
HTC, the maker of such popular Android-running smartphones as the Evo 4G, Droid Incredible and T-Mobile myTouch handsets, is hiring content editors for a planned online store, one source told FT, which reported, "The team is understood initially to include a small number of staff based in Taiwan, with plans to expand to 100 people in different locations around the world."
The new hires are likely also being brought on board to expand HTC's newly launched Sense.com service, according to the report. Sense is the HTC user interface (UI) that sits on top of the operating system, offering an "HTC experience" and differentiating the handsets from other manufacturers' devices. As competition among smartphone makers increases, however, it's thought that a UI is no longer enough, necessitating the need for an app store for greater customization-and profits.
"App stores are table stakes," Analyst Roger Kay, with Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK. "The phone makers feel they have to have them. Even Qualcomm, a phone chip supplier, offers an app store infrastructure to its customers, the phone makers. Companies feel obliged to provide -a complete stack' or else they're out of the game."
With the iPhone, Apple began the lucrative app offering-and installing-craze. (Though IBM, Kay adds, also uses a soup-to-nuts strategy, "minus the beautiful endpoints.") Other operating system makers, including Research In Motion, Google, Microsoft and Symbian-supporter Nokia soon followed, and now wireless operators are also in on the act, along with hardware makers. Back in January, PC maker Acer first told Bloomberg that it planned to launch an application and e-book store.
HTC, since aligning itself with the Android OS, has had enormous success in establishing itself as a major brand in the United States and elsewhere. During the third quarter, the company shipped 5.8 million phones and posted a year-over-year growth of 176 percent, according to research firm IDC, which attributed the growth to the "strength of its Android-powered smartphones worldwide." With five Microsoft Windows Phone 7 phones poised to launch during the fourth quarter, HTC, says IDC, expects shipments during the coming quarter to leap to 9 million units.
In an HTC-owned app store, applications would be offered for the Android and Microsoft platforms.
"The -ecosystem' approach of yesteryear, like the Microsoft Windows cluster, has given way to the -fully integrated' model, often controlled by a single company," says Endpoint Technologies' Kay. "The problem is that this turn of events is leading to a situation in which the buyer is presented with multiple towers of unique design on every side. This is midgame of the walled garden philosophy unfolding. That's why app stores are so important. The suppliers are playing for all or nothing."
However, an HTC representative wouldn't confirm whether a new app store is imminent, telling the Journal, "[HTC is] growing very fast and we are hiring for a variety of positions including marketers, developers, technical writers and many others. We are always exploring new areas we can add value to our customers, but we can't comment on our future plans."