It looks like HTC is now expanding its ODM business, according to a report from Engadget Mobile. HTC’s ODM business had traditionally made PDAs and smartphones for other manufacturers, such as Palm with select Treo models, the historic HP iPaq line, and others. According to the same Engadget Mobile report, HTC is the manufacturer of the XPERIA X1, which will receive the iconic Sony Ericsson branding.
This brings to mind three points that immediately come to mind: 1) build quality, 2) the driver debacle, and 3) availability and pricing.
First, if the Engadget Mobile reports are in fact true, this is welcomed news as HTC has traditionally had an excellent reputation for build quality. However, I do question if it’s the partnership with Sony Ericsson the reason why HTC converged Windows Mobile Professional devices have not seen VGA or higher resolutions. I understand that VGA resolutions essentially quadruple the number of pixels from QVGA so the screen consumes more energy, thus decreasing battery life. But is this the default answer? Is the Sony Ericsson deal the reason why HTC didn’t develop its own (or carrier-branded) line of high resolution converged devices? There have been rumors in the past that HTC didn’t or couldn’t build a candybar QWERTY device on its own because of its manufacturing relationship with Palm.
Second, recent HTC devices are plagued with choppy video and slow response time. Users experiencing screen lag are blaming it on the fact that HTC devices support the Qualcomm chip, which theoretically provides a graphics component. Said graphics component was not activated by HTC and no drivers have been or will be released by the company. A discussion of this can be found here. Hopefully, Sony Ericsson will provide support for video and graphics acceleration and continue to support the XPERIA line through ROM upgrades when needed if problems arise.
And lastly, third, although Sony Ericsson has had much success in Asia and Europe, its higher end phones haven’t had much inroads with carriers in the United States. Hopefully Sony Ericsson will negotiate some carrier arrangements with AT&T and T-Mobile in the USA for a wider release of the phone and so that users wishing to purchase the phone can do so at subsidized prices. The wider release of the phone may be important. Manufacturers who see wider releases typically will support the devices better as it affects more people. Also, with wide release, manufacturers may not want to jeopardize their brand by user backlash with poor support.