HTC focuses on content with new exec appointment

HTC's appointment of a chief content officer will lead the smartphone maker to sell apps, movies and games, say analysts

High Tech Computer (HTC) named its first chief content officer this week, showing how the Taiwanese smartphone maker aims to push more deeply into content, in addition to hardware, for a long-term competitive edge.

HTC picked Shashi Fernando as chief content officer to signal its commitment to developing content as a pivotal component in its devices, the company said Tuesday. In February HTC bought Saffron Digital, the mobile video firm Fernando founded in 2006, another sign of its content development ambitions.

Content will be a crucial part of HTC's future, the company said.

HTC isn't the first smartphone manufacturer to take an interest in the market for downloadable games, apps, and other content.

Apple set the trend with its app store for the iPhone. Since then, RIM has opened an app store for BlackBerry users, while the Android Market offers apps for smartphones from Google and the many other vendors of smartphones running the Android OS. Nokia, too, has its Ovi Store for phones running its soon-to-be-abandoned Symbian OS, while Samsung Electronics runs an app store for phones running its proprietary Bada software platform.

Developing the market for content "is going to be the key driver for the branding of smartphones," said Wai Ho Leong, regional economist with Barclays Capital in Singapore. "This is really going to be a deciding factor, the way brands will be differentiated."

HTC may design its own applications or contract with third-party designers, analysts say, though apps for smartphone operating systems such as Windows and Google Android already sell on HTC devices. Future HTC smartphones would be designed to steer users toward a range of unique downloads, they say.

"HTC may not do its own content, but the new officer could go find partners," said Tracy Tsai, principal analyst with Gartner in Taipei.

The smartphone maker sold 24.67 million units last year, up 111 percent over 2009. It anticipates a strong 2011 with its recent release of new Android and Windows phones and its first tablet, the HTC Flyer.

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Tags research in motionconsumer electronicsShashi FernandosmartphonesSamsung ElectronicsSaffron DigitalPhonesHigh Tech Computer

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Ralph Jennings

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