The race towards owning one’s own mobile ecosystem continues, as mobile device manufacturer HTC considers its own platform. Whether this will come to fruition through an acquisition or its own creation is yet to be revealed, though a move by HTC in this direction could pit the company against two of its biggest partners–Google and Microsoft.
HTC has seen significant growth in the past two years, due in large part to its allegiance with Google and Microsoft. Several of the devices that run Microsoft Windows Mobile, including the recently released HD2, were manufacturerd by HTC. And thanks to its partnership with Google, HTC is behind the majority of devices that run Android, Google’s mobile platform that continues to be a thorn in Apple’s side.
Having made such huge gains in a short period of time emphasizes the existing and future potential for mobile devices, particularly as they appeal to a large consumer base. The market for consumer electronics is booming no matter which way you slice it, as improved networks, enhanced features and application marketplaces appeal to buyers. Just as important, these factors also provide great business opportunities, as direct access to consumers means more profitability around marketing, advertising, and nearly every form of consumer appeal. Mobile devices are now able to make just about everything on-demand, spanning media access to personal assistant tools.
And HTC isn’t the only company to consider running platforms on its own devices, or creating devices to support existing platforms. The democratization of platforms and devices is creating a great deal of diversity on the larger mobile market, making for several interesting opportunities for companies that would otherwise have had to rely on partnerships with larger players such as Apple, Microsoft or Google.
Navigation devices, cameras and toys are being employed with mobile platforms, WiFi access and integration with mobile apps, increasing their consumer appeal and making them easier to utilize for their originally intended purposes. Even though we’re seeing an increase in the actual type and number of devices being created, we’re also seeing an increase in the support for existing mobile platforms, generating an attractive option for consumers. It’s no longer about having to add yet another mobile device to your laptop bag, purse or pocket. It’s about having a mobile device that can tap into a variety of networking options, so that it matters less which device you actually get.
And the loyalties around partnerships? Those will begin to fall apart and subsequently be rearranged, as more companies look to benefit from this increased and more direct access to consumers. Apple will be making its iPhone available through Verizon in the U.S. market, branching away from AT&T. Google already offered the Android platform on Motorola devices, in addition to HTC, and will soon be expanding beyond cell phones all together (televisions and tablet computers are next on the list).
It’s the app developers and the end users that will be largely affected by the growing number of options that will soon be available to them, and the market will reflect this. As we saw with social networking platforms such as Facebook’s, the increased options will encourage a platform-atop-a-platform approach to unifying whatever de-fragmentation we’ll see with devices and their platforms in the coming year.