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2/6/2014
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HTC: Wearable In The Works

HTC pins turnaround hopes on wearable device, "disruptive" tablet, and new line of mid-range and affordable smartphones.

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10 Wearables To Watch At CES 2014
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HTC has seen a disastrous collapse in demand for its smartphones over the last two years. In 2014, the company believes that entering new product categories -- and resurrecting some old ones -- will help right its badly listing ship.

HTC expects to have a wearable available in the US market by the holiday shopping season, according to company chair Cher Wang. After spending years engineering a smartwatch (of sorts) HTC says it has cracked the code to making a great product. "Many years ago we started looking at smartwatches and wearables, but we believe that we really have to solve the battery problems and the LCD light problems," said Wang in an interview with Bloomberg. "These are customer-centric problems."

[Are wearable devices poised to change the way we work, shop, and live? Read 7 Ways Wearables Will Go To Work.]

Wearables are a hot category, but none of the current offerings has been a runaway success. The Samsung Galaxy Gear can be deemed a flop. The Qualcomm Toq has limited availability. The Sony SmartWatch 2 is a solid device but still misses the mark. The only decent smartwatch is the Pebble, which recently launched an app store of its own. Wang didn't offer any details about the device or specify what HTC is bringing to the table, but battery life is certainly a concern among smartwatch owners.

Beyond the smartwatch, HTC needs to bolster its smartphone lineup. The company introduced only a few models during 2013, many of which focused on the high end of the market. HTC admits this was a mistake. "[Last year] wasn't a very good year for HTC,” said Chang Chialin, CFO and head of global sales. "We have to admit we took our eyes somewhat off the ball in making sure we have a robust portfolio in the mid- and affordable end, which we're fixing now." That means HTC will offer a wider range of products this year.

HTC is expected to kick off its 2014 offerings soon. A product code-named the M8 will replace the year-old HTC One as the company's flagship smartphone for the year. Solid details about the M8 are sparse, but it will feature a design similar to the HTC One, as well as an improved camera and tweaked software. The M8 is slated to arrive by March. What HTC does beyond the M8 is anyone's guess. The company has been good at keeping its product plans close to the vest.

Lastly, HTC will return to the tablet market this year. In October 2013 HTC said it would offer a "disruptive" tablet in 2014 but offered few other details. HTC hasn't fielded a tablet for several years, instead focusing on its core smartphone business. A recent report pegged HTC as the company behind the next Nexus-branded tablet.

HTC says it will boost its marketing efforts this year in an attempt to increase the visibility of both its brand and its products. The company firmly believes a lack of solid marketing led to the limited success of the HTC One and its siblings, the One Mini and One Max.

HTC desperately needs a strong 2014. After reporting losses in recent financial quarters, its market share has dropped precipitously. The company is confident its new products and marketing plans will help turn things around.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
2/7/2014 | 9:50:56 AM
Re: Why wearable?
I do like your statement, sir - most of the vendors just mention that they have the pressure from competitor but they do not have a clear understanding of real business case. I am not sure will Apple make a difference here but at least Apple fans will put in a plug for the iWatch.:-)
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/6/2014 | 4:32:08 PM
Why wearable?
I get the sense that if you were to ask the tech vendors in the wearable space why they're there, they'd point to a competitor rather than a real business plan.
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