HTC confirms interest in acquiring its own mobile operating system


HTC confirmed its interest in purchasing a mobile operating system to power its device portfolio but said it will carefully assess its options before moving forward.

"We have given it thought and we have discussed it internally, but we will not do it on impulse," HTC chairwoman Cher Wang said during an interview with China's Economic Observer, going on to say that HTC's competitive advantage lies in its flexibility to operate without a dependence on any one mobile OS. "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 [e.g., its HTC Sense user interface]. Our strength lies in understanding an OS, but it does not mean that we have to produce an OS."

The smart money suggests HTC would target Hewlett-Packard's webOS--HP halted support for the operating system last month, indicating its interest in selling or licensing the platform. HTC rival Samsung recently stated it would "never" purchase webOS.

Another possibility, albeit far more remote: MeeGo, the open-source platform combining Intel's former Moblin efforts with Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) former Maemo platform. Earlier this year, Nokia inked a broad strategic partnership with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) that positions the software maker's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system as Nokia's primary smartphone platform, throwing MeeGo's future into serious doubt--last week, Intel said it remains "fully committed" to MeeGo's ongoing development.

HTC currently manufactures 14 percent of all smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system (more than any other Android partner) and 6 percent of Windows devices, according to recent Nielsen data. Last month, Google agreed to acquire Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) for roughly $12.5 billion--although Google has vowed the Android platform will remain open, many onlookers believe Motorola's rivals will hedge their bets, exploring OS options beyond Android.

HTC is also embroiled in a patent infringement fight with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), which claims that HTC devices running Android copy elements of its iPhone. Last week, HTC acquired nine patents from Google, alleging in a complaint filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission that Apple is now infringing on its patent rights.

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