Taiwan Smartphone Maker, HTC To Lay Off 1,500 Workers

Pedestrians walk past an advertisement for Taiwan smartphone maker HTC reading “insist to challenge the infinity” in Taipei on July 3, 2018. PHOTO: SAM YEH / AFP

 

Taiwan’s smartphone maker HTC announced on Tuesday that it would slash 1,500 jobs, around a fifth of its total workforce, in the biggest staff cull for three years following heavy losses.

Once a star of the intensely competitive smartphone sector, HTC has been struggling in the face of stiff competition from Apple and Samsung as well as strong Chinese brands such as Huawei.

The announcement of the cuts to its manufacturing workforce comes despite a new deal with Google, completed in January, which boosted HTC’s first quarter performance after a dismal 2017.

It incurred a net loss of Tw$16.91 billion in 2017 and a loss per share of Tw$20.58, the highest since it listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange in March 2002.

Losses of Tw$9.8 billion in the last three months of 2017 represented its worst-ever quarterly results.

HTC described the cuts — which will be implemented by the end of September — as “a decisive step in the realignment of resources across the organisation” that would allow “more flexible operations management”.

Shares in the firm plunged 6.71 per cent to Tw$52.80 in Taipei and are sharply down from a high of Tw$1,300 in 2011 as its share of the global smartphone market has been worn away.

Under the $1.1 billion deal with Google, the US tech giant took on half of HTC’s research and development staff — about 2,000 people.

Many of them had already been working on its Pixel handset, manufactured by HTC, as well as acquiring intellectual property licensing.

The deal reflected Google’s wish to emulate the success of Apple iPhones by controlling the hardware as well as the software used in the premium-priced handsets.

Following the Google deal, HTC announced its first quarterly gains for almost three years in May, posting a net profit of Tw$21.1 billion.

But while analysts said the Google agreement would mean some immediate benefits for HTC, such as more capital and cost reductions, they predicted a turnaround in its fortunes was unlikely.

In 2015, the company cut more than 2,000 jobs, slashing its workforce by 15 per cent after posting its then biggest ever quarterly loss of Tw$8.0 billion.

HTC has previously said it wants to better coordinate its smartphone and virtual reality businesses.

The company is among major tech firms including Facebook and Samsung to venture into virtual reality and released its first VR headset Vive in 2016.

However, analysts have been sceptical about the earning potential of its investments in virtual reality and other emerging areas.

AFP

Google To Buy Part Of Taiwan Smartphone Maker HTC For $1.1bn

File Photo

Taiwan’s struggling smartphone maker HTC said on Thursday it would sell part of its smartphone business to Google for $1.1 billion as the US giant looks to take greater control of its hardware business.

Google will take on half of HTC’s research staff — about 2,000 people — many of whom have already been working on the Silicon Valley firm’s Pixel handset, as well as intellectual property (IP) licensing.

HTC said in a statement the deal is expected to be completed early next year, pending regulatory approval.

“For Google, this agreement further reinforces its commitment to smartphones and overall investment in its emerging hardware business,” HTC spokesman Peter Shen told a press conference in Taipei.

“In addition to the talented and experienced team of professionals, Google will continue to have access to HTC’s IP to support the Pixel smartphone family. This agreement also represents a significant investment by Google in Taiwan as a key innovation and technology hub.”

He declined to give further details but stressed that HTC would continue to develop and sell smartphones under its own brand. Shares in HTC were suspended before the announcement but had fallen more than 12 percent since the start of January.

The Taiwanese firm is currently working on its new flagship phone and will also continue to invest in areas such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and internet of things, Shen added.

“The agreement is a testament to the decade-long strategic relationship between HTC and Google around the development of premium smartphones,” Google said in a joint statement with HTC.

The agreement will give Google more control of its mobile handset hardware as it seeks to bolster its presence in a market dominated by Apple and Samsung.

The tie-up will give Google a greater ability to integrate smartphone hardware and its Android operating software in the same manner as Apple, a feature that is seen as helping the iPhone.

“It’s still early days for Google’s hardware business. We’re focused on building our core capabilities,” Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware, said in a blog post, according to Bloomberg News.

“A team of HTC talent will join Google as part of the hardware organization. These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we’ve already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line, and we’re excited to see what we can do together as one team.”

It would not be the first foray into hardware for Google, which in 2012 acquired handset maker Motorola for $12.5 billion, only to sell it two years later for less than $3 billion.

HTC, once a star of the intensely competitive smartphone sector, has been struggling in the face of stiff competition from Apple and Samsung as well as strong Chinese brands like Huawei.

The firm’s revenue fell to a 13-year low of Tw$3 billion ($100 million) in August and it suffered a ninth consecutive quarterly loss of Tw$1.95 billion in April-June.

AFP

BBC’s iPlayer To Debut On Windows Phone Platform

The BBC has announced that its iPlayer will land in Windows Phone platform soon

Making the announcement, BCC confirmed that all handsets running Microsoft’s mobile operating system currently cannot access the catch-up TV and radio service and to end this, the corporation said it will have to allow a web-based version of iPlayer to be accessed via a live tile – or square icon – on the Windows Phone home screen despite work going on to complete its Android app.

The head of the iPlayer team; David Price previously said that Android was “complex and fragmented with a huge difference between video playback capabilities” for different devices, causing problems for his developers.

By wrapping the iPlayer mobile website together with its proprietary Media Player plug-in, the broadcaster can offer access to streamed feeds of its material but will still not be able to let users download programmes for offline use – as is the case with its iOS app.

The move comes months after Microsoft agreed to pay the BBC a fee to use some of its online news stories within its Windows 8 desktop Bing Daily news app.

Nokia recently revealed that the Windows Phone Store now hosts more than 130,000 apps.

However, the marketplace still has notable holdouts including Instagram, Photoshop and an official Dropbox app as well as games including Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto and Temple Run.

However, a spokeswoman for BBC Global News said this latter agreement was a “commercial content licensing deal” and completely separate to the iPlayer contract.

Apple and HTC end patent disputes

HTC and Apple both mobile phone makers have decided to sign a licensing agreement with duration of 10 years to end their patent disputes.

The companies have been involved in the patents disputes since 2010 recording some successes and failures on both sides.

Though confidential, the terms of the settlement covers current and future patents held by both firms.

HTC CEO Peter Chou said “HTC is pleased to have resolved its dispute with Apple, so HTC can focus on innovation instead of litigation,”. While Apple CEO Tim Cook added “We are glad to have reached a settlement with HTC.” “We will continue to stay laser focused on product innovation.”

Looking the successes and failures; Apple tried to get HTC devices banned in the UK, and failed, and as recently as this September HTC was pushing to block the Iphone and Ipad in the US.

Apple had argued that HTC was using four of its patented technologies, including one relating to the slide to unlock feature.

It encountered some legal difficulties there. In July UK Judge Christopher Lloyd ruled that HTC smartphones don’t infringe the four patents, and added that three of them, including the unlocking technique are invalid.

Apple also accused HTC of buying patents, including one relating to LTE high speed connectivity, just so it could use them in court against it. In July last year, the US International Trade Commission gave an early indication that it would not support HTC’s claims.

As the two-year patent battles come to an apparently amicable end, the only winners in that conflict are the lawyers.

Samsung ships a whooping 157million smartphones ahead of Apple in Q3

Samsung increased its lead in terms of smartphone shipments as estimate shows that the total number of smartphone shipments exceeded 157 million in Q3 2012. The Korean company shipped a record 56.3 million which was almost double the number of iPhones shipped by Apple (26.9 million). The Galaxy S III played a key role for Samsung with estimated sales of 18 million in the third quarter. Things are getting so dire for RIM and Nokia that ZTE has got ahead of them. LG did well amongst the Tier 2 players compared to rivals like Huawei, Motorola and HTC.

Nokia’s insistence on failing to ship an Android based handset and stick to its Windows Phone (W7 Mango) devices meant sales fell a whacking 63 per cent compared to Q3 2011.

The Finnish company shipped just 6.3 million smart devices in the third quarter. Though there’s hope for Nokia as the Xmas season always see strong sales growth for everyone.

In its report, ‘Smartphone Evolution Strategies: Premium, Standard & Economy Markets 2011-2016′, Juniper says, “Samsung has been highly effective in leveraging its global brand strength and the popularity of the Android OS to drive sales of smartphones in all price tiers.”

With Windows Phone 8 devices due to become commercially available shortly plus the fact that in the UK, for example, its offers handsets to run on EE’s 4G LTE network.

No such luck for RIM which unbelievably won’t actually ship a BlackBerry 10 smartphone until Q1 2013 – just when everybody has bought a new phone.

At least the Canadian firm managed 7.7 million quarterly smartphone shipments, so it piped Nokia.

Given RIM’s emphasis on the business sector missing Xmas may not harm its Q4 sales as much as expected.

Even LG sold more smartphones than Nokia as it posted a 24 per cent quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) growth to a record 7 million smartphone shipments.

ZTE shipped almost 20 million smartphones over the first three quarters with third quarter sales exceeding both Nokia and RIM.

The phenomenal success for Samsung has been the Galaxy S III which is, of course, an Android based device.

Windows phone 8 smartphone unveiled by Microsoft thanks to HTC

HTC has produced two new smartphones for Microsoft, running on its Windows Phone 8 operating system.

Microsoft and HTC yesterday unveiled the first two “signature Windows Phones”, the Windows Phone 8X and 8S. Both devices will be available from November, though more than 150 mobile operators worldwide, although pricing details have yet to be revealed.

The X and the S nomenclature mirror HTC’s existing one product line. The 8X is the higher device of the two, with a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 4.3-inch display and 8-megapixel camera (with the now obligatory burst mode). There’s also an 88-degree wide angle 2.1MP front-facing camera, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of memory and NFC capability.

The 8S is physically smaller and less capable, with a dual-core 1GHz S4 chip, 5MP camera and a non-HD 4-inch display. Both models come in a variety of bold colours, rather akin to Nokia’s Lumia series. Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, stretched credulity somewhat when he said:

“Windows Phone has clearly emerged as one of the top mobile ecosystems and is competitive against any other smartphone platform in the world.

We’ve been inspired by Windows Phone 8 to create new smartphones that give the platform the iconic design and personality it deserves.”

That’s salesmanship for you. Microsoft is going to need more support from HTC and others to bolster the early efforts of Nokia in getting more devices out into the market – and devices that truly stand out from the very capable Android and iPhone alternatives. And as Motorola showed earlier this week with its new Intel-powered RAZR i phone, the battle now is for those feature phone owners who have yet to be persuaded (either through price or complexity) to switch to smartphones.

The new HTC models certainly appear to span the market from low to high-end Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, added:

“Pairing these beautiful new HTC phones with our Windows Phone brand is a big milestone for both of our companies and our partnership. Together we are offering customers a simple choice and a truly unique experience.”

Chris Weber, Nokia’s Head of Marketing, made a blatant attempt to deflect attention away from HTC and towards Nokia (well, he certainly got some column inches here, so his tactic worked). “It takes more than matching colour to match the innovation of the Lumia 920”, he tweeted, as well as later alluding to the fact that HTC has chosen to merely “tactically re-brand their products”. You would have thought Nokia would have been grateful for more market support for Windows Phone, but his aggressive negativity simply highlights the rotten culture at the once great Nokia.

We shall leave him to his little tweets and instead welcome the expansion of the Windows Phone line-up. Let’s not forget HTC was the OEM behind some of Microsoft’s earlier forays into mobile – the iPAQ and Orange SPV.

Apple, Sony, RIM and others sued by Graphics Properties Holdings

Apple, Sony and four other companies were sued by Graphics Properties Holdings, formerly known as Silicon Graphics, for allegedly infringing a patent through their sale of mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The lawsuits against Apple, Taiwan-based HTC Corp, South Korea-based LG Electronics Inc and Samsung Electronics Co., BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd and Japan’s Sony Corp were filed in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The patent at issue relates to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on screens.

According to the lawsuits, the defendants’ infringing devices include Apple’s iPhone and the HTC EVO4G, LG Thrill, Research in Motion Torch, Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, and Sony Xperia Play smartphones.

Graphics Properties said that unless the alleged infringements are halted, it will suffer irreparable harm. The lawsuits seek to stop the sale of infringing products and also seek reasonable royalties and other damages.

LG spokesman John Taylor said that company does not generally discuss pending legal matters. A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment. The remaining companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Silicon Graphics filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and sold much of its operations to Rackable Systems Inc. The remaining operations are based in New Rochelle, New York, and are owned by private investment firms and other investors, according to the complaints.

The lawsuits are all in the U.S. District Court, District of Delaware.