2011 will see HTC putting renewed focus on the business market, according to HTC’s executive director for UK and Ireland, Jon French.
In an exclusive interview with Mobile, he says: ‘Until 18 months ago we were seen as a business smartphone manufacturer. Since then our positioning as a consumer brand has grown but we still understand the business market really well. This year we will be putting more resources into the business market and will broaden our focus and concentrate on business growth just as much as on consumer growth.’
French believes that employees’ demand to use smartphones at work, rather than limited enterprise handsets, will drive sales in the business sector.
HTC’s business strategy will not be driven by Windows Phone 7, he says. Instead, the manufacturer will offer a broad range of Android and Windows handsets in its business portfolio. ‘Each platform has particular strengths. There is no “one size fits all” for business. We offer choice,’ says French, adding, ‘My feeling is that the only reason Android is not bigger in the business space is that no one focuses on it.’
HTC has beefed up its business team to ensure all SME and corporate customers have access to dedicated advisors, trainers and website support to ensure they get the best out of their HTC devices.
‘We don’t patronise our business customers, we talk to them. No one else offers what we do. There is a perfect storm developing for us in business,’ says French.
In December last year, the Taiwanese manufacturer handed Brightstar Europe a UK handset supply deal, in addition to its partnership with Brightpoint.
French is keen to emphasise that HTC’s deal with Brightstar does not undermine its partnership with Brightpoint. He says: ‘Brightpoint is the best distributor in the UK in what it does, especially in the direct channels, where it does an excellent job for us, but the increasingly broad spread of demand for our products means we need a broader spread of distribution.’
He adds: ‘That is why we chose Brightstar, because there is very little cross over between the two and we did not want to cannibalise what Brightpoint do. So this way the two companies will work side by side but specifically in different areas of distribution.’
One new channel HTC may want Brightstar to focus on is the IT reseller channel, particularly with its plans to launch an HTC tablet this year. French declines to discuss the new tablet, but says: ‘I believe we will start to see new channels emerging around the IT reseller channels. As smartphones become more mainstream and the tablet market begins to open up I think the IT reseller channels will really open up.
‘Tablets and smartphones are coming close to replacing laptops for business customers,’ he adds. ‘Therefore consumers will expect to buy these devices from the same channels they bought their laptops.’
HTC also announced a renewed allegiance with Windows last year, launching several handsets on the Windows Phone 7 OS. But according to recent reports, Windows Phone 7 devices are selling slowly.
French said sales of HTC’s Windows Phone 7 phones were ‘broadly in line with what we thought they would be’.
He adds: ‘Right now we are not disappointed with Windows Phone 7 performance and we believe we will still see very strong growth of the platform in 2011, but it will take time to embed with store staff and consumers.’
French says HTC is backing Windows Phone 7 ‘heavily’ because it is so different from other platforms.
‘There is nothing like it on the market,’ he says. ‘I think it will have a similar growth to Android, which also took time to develop.’
French points to the rapid growth of applications for Windows Phone 7 as evidence the platform will thrive. He says: ‘More than 4,000 apps had been developed within six weeks of its launch, which is phenomenal.’
French is adamant that 2011 will not see a repeat of the stock shortages that dogged HTC during 2010. HTC launched a three-pronged strategy last year that saw it massively increase its production capacity, strengthen its management team at its headquarters in Taiwan and forward order key components.
French says customers’ growing faith in HTC’s products, after strong sales in 2010, will also help prevent stock shortages in 2011.
He explains: ‘We and our customers better understand HTC’s potential now, allowing us to be more bold about what we can do. We can only go big if our customers have confidence in the numbers and they have that confidence now, which means they can give us clear visibility about what that demand will be.’