By Mark Long / CIO Today. Updated February 17, 2010.
HTC unveiled an advanced handset Wednesday that is powered by Qualcomm's Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless (BREW) platform -- which provides developers with the technology for porting their applications between all Qualcomm devices. The move marks a major departure for the Taiwan-based company, which has heavily invested in the development of handsets based on Google's Android platform and Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS.
Scheduled to take its inaugural bows on Telefonica's networks in Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, the HTC Smart is squarely aimed at price-sensitive consumers, noted HTC CEO Peter Chou at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
"More and more people are craving advanced mobile phone experiences with e-mail, web browsing, and social networking, but the cost and complexity often represent a significant obstacle for many," Chou said. "The HTC Smart introduces this functionality in an intuitive phone that is affordable."
Competing For Developers
HTC sees Qualcomm's BREW as an opportunity to give its handset customers access to new applications and services from software developers worldwide. Though Gartner analyst Tole Hart has noted that the BREW platform has long been "a fairly closed ecosystem" with a complete storefront, applications development program, and carrier billing integration, things are changing.
Qualcomm signaled a willingness to open up its ecosystem last October when it announced an agreement with Brazil-based mobile operator TIM governing the launch of Plaza Retail -- a widget framework for the support, management and delivery of mobile apps and mobile content based on Java, BREW, Flash and Android. Moreover, Qualcomm says support is also in the works for Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian and LiMo.
However, Qualcomm will have to fiercely compete to divert developers' attention from Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market. Additionally, Qualcomm faces the prospect of heightened competition from MeeGo -- a new open-source platform that combines elements of Intel's Moblin and Nokia's Maemo operating systems and hopes to gain traction through integration with Nokia's Ovi Store.
On the other hand, Gartner Research Director Carolina Milanesi doesn't think MeeGo changes anything with respect to Nokia's prospects for shipping handsets that run the new Linux-based OS.
"I think Nokia will continue to deliver the same" number of handsets "it would have had with Maemo," Milanesi said. "You might, however, see other devices using the platform."
More HTC Smartphones
Vodafone customers in the United Kingdom will soon get their hands on three new smartphones, including two Android-based handsets called the HTC Legend and HTC Desire, which sport organic AMOLED touchscreens and optical trackpads. Also on tap for an April release is a new Windows Mobile device called the HD Mini.
Wireless carriers based in Asia are expected to launch all three handsets beginning in the second quarter. However, HTC has no plans at present for launching any of these devices in the United States.
Still, American consumers can look forward to T-Mobile USA's introduction of the HTC HD2 this spring. Sporting a one-gigahertz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm and a 4.3-inch, high-resolution screen with touch interface, the new handset will provide users with access to millions of e-books from retailer Barnes & Noble, popular movies from Blockbuster, and live television programs, the wireless carrier said Tuesday.
The MobiTV mobile app aboard the new handset will give consumers 30 days of free access to live and on-demand TV, including news, ESPN sports, and popular entertainment channels such as MTV, NBC and Comedy Central. "By combining leading innovation in the world of entertainment with the large screen and processing power of the HTC HD2, we've created a unique and powerful mobile entertainment experience," said T-Mobile USA Vice President George Harrison.