TAIWANESE SMARTPHONE MAKER HTC has let slip that it is considering buying an operating system, which could put it in direct competition with its partners Google and Microsoft.
The idea of moving into the software field was prompted by the recent announcement by PC manufacturer HP that it will abandon its WebOS hardware devices, leading many to believe that companies like HTC or Samsung might try to buy WebOS from HP.
"We have given it thought and we have discussed it internally, but we will not do it on impulse," said Cher Wang, chairperson of HTC in an interview with the Economic Observer of China, according to the Focus Taiwan News Channel. "We can use any OS we want. We are able to make things different from our rivals on the second or third layer of a platform. Our strength lies in understanding an OS, but it does not mean that we have to produce an OS."
It seems that the company remains undecided about how to move forward, which is understandable given the risks in trying to make a new operating system work, as HP clearly found out. Even Windows Phone 7 has struggled to gain the ground Microsoft hoped for and expected. Google's Android, on the other hand, has grown phenomenally, and this growth has benefited HTC.
If HTC decides to buy WebOS or some other operating system, it already has the Sense user interface overlay it develops for the operating systems it already deploys on its devices, which includes both Android and Windows Phone 7. This user interface could become part of an exclusive offering for its own operating system if it buys one.
It is also likely that HTC is considering this move in response to Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility, which would give it the option to focus on developing hardware in addition to its software.
The acquisition caused many to speculate that HTC and Samsung would feel threatened and might end up pulling support for Android, but Wang said that Google's decision was correct, given the patents involved, which are widely seen as a strong line of defence for Android against litigation such as Apple's patent lawsuits against both HTC and Samsung.
It could be that HTC is warning Google not to give Motorola priority with Android updates or other forms of favouritism by suggesting that it could drop Android altogether and go it alone, or it might be that HTC sees the value in developing its own operating system in addition to the hardware that will run it. Whatever its decision, it seems possible that we might see even more competition in the mobile market in years to come. µ