NEW YORK — Here’s the perspective from HTC, a phone maker with deep roots with Microsoft. The Taiwanese company got its start building phones that ran Windows Mobile. It also started selling phones that run Google Android, which have dwarfed Windows Mobile in sales.
For Windows Phone 7, the company will have the HTC Surround on AT&T Wireless, which has slide-out surround-sound speakers, and the HTC HD7 on T-Mobile, which had the largest screen of any phones shown Tuesday. HTC will also make a Windows Phone for Sprint.
Here is an edited Q&A with Jason Mackenzie, president of the Americas.
What do you think about these Windows Phones?
We’re excited. We were talking this morning. This is the biggest day in HTC’s history in that we launched five devices on one day. We’ve never done that before. Which is a strong sign of HTC’s commitment to Windows Phone 7 and around that platform. That’s who we were born in to. Our first products were Microsoft phones.
What’s different about this from Microsoft’s prior efforts in mobile?
This is a big bet for both of us. It’s bringing the Windows platform up to date, really doing some unique things they haven’t done before. Microsoft has tremendous assets in terms of Office tools, Xbox, with music, with video with Zune and really integrating all of those assets into a simple easy-to-use experience is not something that’s happened in the past. It has a lot of promise and there’s not a lot of companies that can do that.
Tell us about the phones you’re building on Windows Phone 7.
With the HTC Surround that we’re partnering with AT&T on, you can see we’ve got hardware that speaks to multimedia, whether that’s gaming or music. We’ve got SRS and Dolby sound experience that is best in class. We really kind of thought through the details for how customers are using the phones.
How about the HD7 on T-Mobile?
HD7 we’re very excited about because we partnered with T-Mobile on the HD2 (which used Windows Mobile 6.5). That product was very successful for both of us. I don’t believe we announced any sales for us, but it was very strong, better than both of our forecasts. We knew it was a great design, so we knew the design was great, but at that point Windows was in a bit of a transition between 6.5 and 7, so there was a little bit of cautiousness as well. We were amazed at the reception. People really appreciated the large screen and what that delivered from taking videos to taking pictures and e-mail being able to view more of it.
Was it hard for HTC to move to Windows Phone 7, which had far more restrictions than Windows Mobile 6.5 on how phone makers could customize the software?
Not really. It’s something we’ve accepted. We’ve also been given opportunity through HTC hub to innovate through that. … Through the HTC hub where we will introduce experiences that our customers are used to, whether it’s stock, widgets to deliver Windows HTC HD7 as familiar experience.
HD7 is [coming in] mid-November.
Is there a difference in how Microsoft is approaching from the business side?
I expect that they will be very aggressive from marketing side. They have to.
How are Android HTC devices doing?
In Q2 HTC was the fastest growing OEM [original equipment manufacturer] in the world year over year. The products are very well received. That’s another reason I am very excited for Windows Phone 7 because it will offer increased diversity in our lineup. Our sales are predominantly Android right now, so this will offer strong diversity in our portfolio. …
What’s the difference between Android and Windows Phone?
They’re just different. It’s like chocolate and vanilla ice cream; they’re both ice cream but they taste different. The layouts and methodologies are different. The Office experience is very strong on Windows Phone 7 platform. Windows Phone 7 has the integration with Xbox and the gaming experience will be very different. There are advantages of both. That speaks to who HTC is. We don’t think there is one device that meets the needs of everyone.
Will HD2 stop selling?
We’re still selling HD2.
Can you give us an update on HTC momentum this year?
This year has been unbelievable for us. It’s been very strong. We started out the year launching the HD2 and that product just took off. Then going into Q2 we had literally the Hero products at almost every operator. The Evo 4G launching at Sprint, the Incredible launching at Verizon and the HD2 and the MyTouch slide at T-Mobile. … We had planned for aggressive growth going into this year but the growth oustripped. We ran into some challenges from supply standpoint that we’ve been working very seriously to overcome. We’ve been selling every possible unit we could. We expect to have a great finish. We can’t only start good, but we expect to have a strong finish to the year. …
In Q2, HTC was the fastest growing OEM. … This time last year we were only 14 percent brand awareness. Very few people outside the industry knew who HTC was. This year we expect to be over 50% awareness.
Was it hard to part with the HTC clock on the Windows Mobile 6.5 home screen?
No. I don’t think so. But it’s fun that you’ve asked that question because it shows there are certain things we are doing that are resonating with end-users and customers. It’s exciting that would even be question. We’re supportive of what Microsoft is doing on this platform. For those users that want the clock experience that’s something they’ll get through the HTC hub.