When Henry Ford was asked almost a century ago why he focused so intensely on making automobiles a mainstream in complete contradiction to what the experts thought at the time, his response was simple – “If I would’ve asked people what they wanted, they would’ve asked for a faster horse”. When Steve Jobs almost had a heart attack because Steve Wozniak had to honor a contractual requirement to show HP any of his inventions before being able to do anything on his own, HP responded with a blunt – “Steve, what are normal people going to do with a computer?” When Bill Gates decided to change the slogan of Microsoft to – “A computer in every home”, people thought he was nuts, and even he’ll admit he kind of was.
Can you imagine a world without these people? What would’ve happened if these brilliant human beings had simply listened to what other people told them not to do? I can assure you that we’d still be in the dark ages of technology if these people didn’t take the risks they took.
Today I’ll admit I’m saddened by the news about what’s happening internally at HTC. If you’re read the news, you’ll know that some high-level executives have left the company for reasons we still haven’t been able to clarify. Some assume they’re leaving, but if Peter Chou’s commitment to step down if the HTC One doesn’t succeed doesn’t ring a bell, it might be that some changes were necessary as well.
In the last decade we’ve seen the failure of great companies like Nokia, HP, BlackBerry or Motorola, and we’ve even seen the demise of great innovators like Palm. And for a minute there I’ll admit I became worried when I asked myself if this could be the same fate for HTC.
Think about it for a minute, what would the world be without HTC?
Imagine a past without HTC
My personal love for this industry has HTC’s name on it. Back in the day when PDAs ruled the world, HTC built the first, most beautiful, useful and expandable Pocket PC at the time with the Compaq iPAQ line-up. Today we all find the smartphone ubiquitous, but I’m sure that not many of you remember that the first real smartphone was built by HTC. Slide-out QWERTY keyboards are still something many of us wished never died, and you can thank HTC for inventing the concept. 3G connectivity on a smartphone as early as 2005 was also an HTC innovation, and if you think that Apple invented video calling with the iPhone 4, HTC had us doing that five years earlier. Back in the times when you had to buy a stand-alone GPS device for vehicle navigation, HTC came up with the first GPS-capable smartphone, and no, there wasn’t even a mobile version of Google Maps for it. And if you’re asking yourself who came up with the first 4G smartphone, I’m sure I don’t need to answer your question any more. Android wouldn’t even be what it is if HTC hadn’t taken the bold move of building the first device to run it, and you’ll also remember that for a good while, HTC was the only company to build Android smartphones as Samsung was still pushing their Windows Mobile Omnia devices.
HTC’s footprint in our ecosystem has not only pushed it, but also defined it. I’m not saying that all of these innovations wouldn’t have reached the world eventually, but collective innovation is never something you’ll see unless somebody is bold enough to be the first to give it a try. We always have Google, Microsoft and Apple in our minds when we talk about innovative companies, and in all honesty, I feel that it would be unfair to not include HTC in part of the game-changing companies of the smartphone industry.
It’s hard to know if the mobile industry would’ve evolved as quick as it has without HTC, but one thing I will tell you is that it wouldn’t have been the prettiest evolution, since HTC has also set the bar when it comes to the design and build quality of the products we buy. Do you really think the iPhone was the first mobile product to launch with an anodized aluminum body? Rewind your memory to the year 2000 and meet the Compaq iPAQ h3600 series.
Imagine a future without HTC
So, if things would sadly lead to the demise of HTC, what exactly do you think would happen to the mobile industry? Do you think that we wouldn’t miss HTC, or do you feel that it would be a great loss?
Personally I think the industry needs HTC more than HTC needs the industry. IBM started selling computers to a niche decades ago and is now just a software company, and Nokia was a paper production plant before they became the communications giant that they were. We’ve seen lots of companies converge into other endeavors to ensure their survival, and HTC could decide to change their future by doing something else if they wanted to. The problem with that is that even today, no other company takes the amount of risks that HTC takes. Some may call the HTC First a stupid move, but only HTC would’ve been bold enough to take that risk. By contrast, if HTC wouldn’t have set their eyes on aluminum designs, GPS, keyboards, 3G and 4G, I wonder how long it would’ve taken everybody else to do the same?
Some of you may not remember this, but Pocket PCs didn’t sell well a decade ago. Yes, we’ll also admit that smartphones didn’t sell well either until Apple launched the iPhone; but if HTC wouldn’t have pushed the industry for a full decade before the iPhone happened, I doubt Apple would’ve ever launched a phone in the first place.
The mobile industry has evolved because HTC has pushed its limits, and I see a very grim future if they stopped existing.
The bottom line
Sadly for you and me, good intentions don’t pay the bills for any company. If the HTC One doesn’t succeed, surely the company may give it another try, but the organization that has made HTC what it is may probably not remain on board. The company strategies that define a market aren’t made by a brand or logo, but by the people that lead it. If Peter Chou steps down, we surely might see a more profitable company in the future by the hands of somebody that takes fewer risks, but is that really what the industry needs?
I’ll admit I’ve made a decision when it comes to the future that I want. You’ll ask, what does my decision have to do with the industry, right? Well, as a matter of fact, each of us defines it as customers. Surely you all know that at Pocketnow we all review phones and therefore, since we always have review units to test, we rarely ever buy devices of our own. That said, I’ve decided to buy an HTC One out of my own money. I do feel HTC deserves it. Surely it may not save HTC, but I hope that my two cents of contribution help.
You all know me for my direct and critical editorials. Yeah, I’m not known for tolerating the mediocrity of many companies. Today, I have no mediocrity to criticize. HTC has done a great job, and I see it unfair that they lose just because other companies have better marketing campaigns and not better products like they do. I hope to see them continue doing it, and I’m sure many of you agree with me.
What about you? Do you imagine a future without HTC? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.