November 8, 2010 2:00 am

HTC to target online app store

HTC, the Taiwanese smartphone maker, is hiring staff to prepare for the possible launch of an online store that would sell e-books and applications, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

HTC is the latest electronics hardware maker to contemplate distributing content and services for its devices, after Acer, the world’s second-biggest PC maker, said last month that it planned to launch a “next generation” application store.

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These moves highlight increasing pressure on device manufacturers to differentiate themselves through content and internet services, as competition heats up in the fast-growing smartphone sector, particularly among Google Android-based devices.

HTC has grown on the back of the popularity of smartphones, with revenues in the third quarter more than doubling from a year ago to T$75.85bn ($2.51bn). It is, however, facing increasing competition, with Samsung overtaking it in the previous quarter to become the world’s fourth-biggest smartphone vendor, according to IDC.

One person with knowledge of the situation said HTC was hiring content editors for a planned online HTC store for its phones, including for e-books and magazines as well as for applications. The team is understood initially to include a small number of staff based in Taiwan, with plans to expand to 100 people in different locations around the world.

HTC in September partnered with Kobo, a US e-books distributor, to offer Kobo’s content on HTC devices globally. Another person close to HTC said, however, that the hires involved more than just the Kobo deal and were probably linked to the expansion of the newly-launched HTC Sense.com service.

HTC said it is “growing very fast and we are hiring for a variety of positions including marketers, developers, technical writers and many others. We are always exploring new areas we can add value to our customers but we can’t comment on our future plans.”

Peter Chou, chief executive of HTC, had previously said he saw “little value” in HTC running its own application store. But he has also said that it was no longer enough for HTC to simply customise the standard Android user interface with its own “skin”: “It is not enough to be skin-deep. We need to go bone-deep.”

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