Tag Archives: htc

HTC won’t help its shrinking share by shrinking a phone

by Steve Blum • , , , , , ,

It used to be bigger.

Combined, Samsung and Apple are selling about half the world’s smart phones, with 30% and 19% market share respectively in 2012 according to IDC. Much of Samsung’s growth from 19% in 2011 came out of HTC’s hide. Its share was cut in half over same period, dropping below 5% and putting it more or less in a tie with Nokia and Blackberry.

At least it was still in the top five then. Now, the most recent quarterly figures for 2013 have LG, Huawei and ZTE pulling ahead, with HTC (and Nokia and Blackberry) dropping further into commodity class. Judging by its latest competitive move, it’s destined to stay there.

This week, HTC previewed the HTC One Mini, a smaller version of its flagship phone. It’s a nice enough addition to the product range. Some consumers will like the size and feel of it. But its impact on HTC’s market position will be minimal. The HTC One Mini doesn’t offer anything new that might otherwise make it significant. Trading a smaller form factor for lower performance specs and price is pretty ordinary.

The mobile handset market is dividing into genuine consumer brands – Apple and Samsung in the lead – and generics. HTC’s problem is that it’s landing in the generic space. Older brands – Nokia and Blackberry – are still recognised, but not bought. HTC never climbed to that height, and its current marketing efforts are swamped by Samsung’s media saturation campaign and Apple’s reality distortion field.

A few tweaks to its product mix won’t build the brand identity it needs even to just get back into the top five.

Supreme Court considering whether it’s a good idea to open up a new feeding ground for patent trolls

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Looks like one of those divided infringements. Let’s eat it.

The U.S. Supreme Court finished its current session this week with a flurry of action, momentous and otherwise. Lost in the fireworks generated by rulings on gay rights, racial preferences and voting rules though, was its decision to take a look at an intellectual property case that, depending on where it eventually goes, could create a vast new opportunity for patent trolls and trial lawyers to line their pockets.

The case in question is Akamai Technologies Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc.. In it, a federal appeals court ruled that Akamai could sue Limelight, a competing content delivery network, for infringing its patents, even though Limelight didn’t completely duplicate Akamai’s protected methods. What Limelight did was use some, but not all, of the same technical steps as Akamai, which would otherwise be allowed, and then told its customers what they needed to do to complete the process. The appeals court said, in effect, it was the same as Limelight duplicating the entire method itself.

Suppose an inventor developed a system for doing something using steps A-B-C-D. Taken individually, each step is common knowledge and can be freely used by anyone. But the inventor was the first to string all four together in that order for a particular purpose. The process that uses those steps in that order, in that way can be patented. A competitor can come along and use, say, steps A-B-C-E if it wants, but can’t use A-B-C-D without permission.

In essence, Limelight used steps A-B-C and then told its customers that they had to do step D themselves if they wanted to achieve the same result as Akamai’s CDN process. Until the lower court ruling, that was legal.

A long list of major technology companies, including Google, Oracle, HTC, Cisco, Red Hat and SAP, as well as lobbyists for the mobile phone industry, urged the supreme court to review and, they hope, overturn that decision…

High technology companies…provide products and services that can be used in an almost infinite combination of ways by other companies and consumers. While the market’s evolution toward specialized, complementary provision of components by numerous, separate suppliers has resulted in substantial gains for consumers (e.g., smartphones that provide mobile telephony, Internet browsing, geographic services, and access to hundreds of thousands of applications at the tap of a finger), it makes technology companies particularly vulnerable to divided infringement claims.

A “divided infringement claim” would allow a patent troll to find one company doing steps A-B and another doing C-D, and sue the hell out of both of them.

The supreme court hasn’t completely decided to review the case. Instead, it bucked it over to the solicitor general, one of the top attorneys in the justice department, for his opinion. We’ll hear more about it during the supreme court’s next session, which starts in October.

New mobile OS worlds, maybe

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

Mobile moves fast, but not to Linux yet.

“The world changes on a dime, especially in the mobile industry,” said Ed Elkin, marketing director for advanced communications solutions at Alcatel-Lucent. “The next thing that happens is HTML 5.”

He was speaking at the “Smart phone trends: current and future” panel at CES this afternoon. Moderated by Mashable editor Lance Ulanoff, it also featured representatives from T-Mobile, AT&T and HTC.

In theory, applications based on HTML 5 could run on any mobile operating system with little or no modification. The standard doesn't perform to that level yet, but there's the likelihood that it eventually will.

Until the change comes, the smart phone operating system universe is Android and iOS, with Blackberry and Windows 8 barely hanging on. Panel members did not see an opening for a new entrant, such as Linux.

“It's difficult to build life on a new planet,” said Mike Woodruff, president of HTC's American operations. But, he added, “if it goes to an HTML 5 world, that changes everything.”

Other trends highlighted today included bigger smart phone screen sizes for the same price, thinner phones and longer battery life. Younger users are driving change, preferring video chats to ordinary voice conversations and expecting to interact with their phones without touching them. Increasingly, phones will respond to spoken commands and gestures.

And not just their phones. Processors and other hardware continue to rapidly improve, and we'll soon hit the point where the only difference between a phone, tablet, television or personal computer is the form factor. Capabilities and underlying technology will be effectively the same, according to panel members.

At that point, Mark Shuttleworth's vision of creating an operating system – in his case, Ubuntu Linux – that runs on any device can become a reality. With or without HTML 5.