HTC is in a bit of a bad way, and their handling of tablet software upgrades, shows.
We understand the difficult straits that HTC is in. They sold very few tablets, handset sales are struggling to keep pace with Apple and Samsung, and Android 4.0 was developed with HTC relatively out of the loop. The good news is that HTC has a new, flagship pan-carrier offering in the HTC One Series to buy them time to rebuild.
In terms of bean counters, it would almost make total sense to abandon all of HTC’s tablets, and come out this fall with a new one. Problem is, such a decision would completely ignore the effect of alienating the early adopters… those that HTC will need to tap, if it wants to keep relevance in this industry.
Perhaps that is why HTC told PhoneNews.com late last week that it is still contemplating the delivery of Android 4.0 for the HTC Flyer, EVO View 4G, and Jetstream. HTC has said on-and-off that Jetstream is a go, but the Jetstream was an extremely niche play, costing more than even Apple’s iPad. HTC’s Flyer (and EVO View twin on Sprint), sold considerably higher volumes.
The bad news for HTC, is that even Acer has blazed past them. Within the past week, Acer has updated all of its tablets to Android 4.0, with the exception of one carrier-branded variant. Acer has readily admitted that it has struggled in the tablet space, but intendeds to regroup with a new generation of tablets after the current Kindle-Fire-answer generation passes. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 are hallmarks of the current tablet attrition. The Galaxy Tab 2 was built to retool the 7-inch tablet from Samsung, specifically to combat Kindle Fire.
HTC is also smartly sitting on the sidelines, perhaps. With Samsung willing to bring margins down dramatically to compete with the loss-leading Kindle Fire, which now accounts for more than half of all Android tablets, offering additional competitors may simply prove to be un-economical. HTC has committed to a product strategy wherein it has fewer, not more devices.
The problem for HTC is that it still needs to support its older devices properly. Every device it does not meet its Google-obligated goal of updating as much as technically-possible, is another nail in HTC’s coffin to win back customers. Customers now can tell that these generational Android updates matter.
Still, the world is not perfect. While Google has asked manufacturers to commit to two years of Android updates, something we led them by a few months proposing, many have failed to actually deliver on that commitment. We’re still waiting for a manufacturer to commit to relentlessly updating its devices, and actually speaking to the community about why it fails to update certain devices. This kind of openness creates competitive advantage. If I want a device that comes with a no-comment tag, I’ll buy another iPad.