Healthy business

Healthy business

Jon French
Jon French, executive director at HTC for the UK, Ireland and South Africa

After a decade-long history in the business world, with heavy investment in design, branding and marketing, HTC has now established itself as an innovative manufacturer in the consumer world. The next stage of this company’s evolution is realigning its fresh, strong image over 2011 with its roots; the business arena. Here, Jon French, executive director at HTC for the UK, Ireland and South Africa, explains just how his company is set to do that.

This time last year, the HTC brand was all about a strong focus on the consumer. Building a reputation in the consumer world has been of paramount importance for HTC over the past two years; the business started to register on the end user radar in mid-2009, when it launched its much-lauded HTC Hero device and the HTC Sense user interface, both of which bought home awards from around the world in the latter six months of that year.

Cream on the cake

2010 was cream on the cake as HTC released the first versions of Legend and Desire devices at Mobile world Congress in Barcelona, plus an updated version of HTC Sense.

In September 2010, HTC announced its first definite nod to the business world, HTCSense.com, a series of connected services aimed at both the consumer and professional device user. One month later, the company stated it was set to launch a gamut of Windows Phone 7 devices. And the cherry on top was the launch of HTC Business in November, a division dedicated to supporting smartphone use within the business environment, providing organisations with ongoing advice and additional resources.

 

“In the last quarter of 2010 we were in a really good space to leverage all that branding from the consumer story into the enterprise arena,” says French. “We began that with the launch of the HTC Business Division, launched in the UK to service business needs.”

Its work on the consumer side of mobile is only 24 months old, adds French. Even though the brand is currently larger in the consumer space, it has a long history in the business world that it has continued to work hard within. French states that HTC has always had a lot of interest in its handsets from large corporations, even while it was involved in the excitement of the high street.

“We thought we could take that excitement from the high street about the devices and the brand, and show businesses this is the same HTC they’ve been working with for the last 10 years. We’ve had a great response. Businesses and operators are now starting to see the consumer brand and our enterprise legacy as one business, so we’re able to maximise the effect of our branding on the high street and create one solid story.”

 

Vanilla or mint choc chip?

Choice is the buzz word for HTC customers, which is why the company is working equally with Microsoft, more of an obvious platform choice for corporates, and Android. “We see absolutely no reason why Android can’t be a great platform for businesses,” comments French. “The knowledge inherent in the consumer space will feed into the business side, and by combining the efforts of both consumer and business under HTC Sense, we can take that to our business customers and say to them, ‘You choose, Android or Windows Phone 7?’.

“Windows Phone 7 is a genuinely pleasant experience, hugely different from Windows Phone 6.5. We don’t want to make people choose though; we give them a choice of platforms and devices. We can give businesses a level of choice and innovation that not many of our competitors can offer, plus a growing brand, and that combination is going really well for us.

“2011 will see us getting some serious marketshare in the business space,” adds French.

This year is an exciting one for everyone involved in the smartphone world, states French. He estimates that 23 million smartphones will potentially be sold in the UK over 2011. “You’ll have people buying smartphones this year who won’t even know they’ve got one. Two thirds of all devices sold in the UK this year will be smartphones, and HTC has a responsibility to convey what these handsets can do to an everwider demographic, in a way people can understand and appreciate. Talking about the likes of Android’s Gingerbread is meaningless in that situation; all it means is the phone can do more things. Our job is to talk about what things people can do with their phones.”

 

Banana split

2011 is a year of many trends. French points to several key areas that the channel should keep an eye on over the year. The first is the convergence of tablet devices. “From my perspective, I don’t think we have defined as an industry what a tablet can do or is, in terms of how it compares to a smartphone, and differs in ways that haven’t been done before. I believe we will see the definition of the differences between these devices, and what they can do, this year.”

The second trend French points to is the emergence of value devices, as opposed to low end smartphones, which were the hot gossip this time last year. “Over the course of last year, people voted with their fingers. They want a valuable experience on their device. People want something east to use, uncomplicated, but value doesn’t mean cheap. It simply means good value.”

French also says we will see Android devices moving more into the business arena over the course of 2011. “There is no reason why Android shouldn’t be a huge player in the business world. Android is a breeding ground for innovation, as it’s shown in the consumer world. The focus is there for the enterprise now, so we shall see some interesting things here this year.”

In summary, the next few months are going to be good for HTC. French concludes: “It’s going to be a year of huge growth for us. I understand the power of the HTC brand now, and how far it can go, which is why I’m bullish and confident about where we’re going in 2011.”