It ran Windows Mobile 6.x and could also run Windows Vista, arriving as a dual OS, dual processor tablet with integrated keyboard – before the netbook craze really took off and well before the tablet nirvana we all live in today.
HTC’s Shift tablet was so revolutionary that it tried to do too much, too soon, using two of Microsoft’s crappiest operating systems ever, with keys that were too small, a screen that was ultimately too small, and with the Win CE OS that you basically couldn’t do that much with, even though that mode gave you the longest battery life.
HTC’s Shift showed such promise, yet was so effectively unusable that at the time I dubbed it the HTC “Sh*t”, which is an unfortunate thing for anyone to think about your product.
Since then, HTC has focused on Windows CE, Windows Phone 7.x and Android smartphones, and while the last year or two has seen HTC shift from being arguably the biggest and best Android vendor to relegating that position to Samsung, HTC’s newest One and One XL smartphones are definite top-of-the-line beauties that give Samsung’s Galaxy SIII models a real run for the money.
HTC’s problem in this area is that Samsung is a much larger and better resourced company that HTC, and has a very big range of Galaxy branded Android devices to compete with.
This presumably makes the success of the HTC One series a lot more “life and death” important than it is for Samsung, which makes computers, whitegoods, phones, tablets, trucks, memory, processors and so much more than HTC.
Then we come to Bloomberg’s article which has launched the raft of articles out there about HTC being “shut out” of Windows RT tablets based on ARM processors.
Bloomberg explains that HTC’s volumes aren’t enough to ensure it gets priority supplies from its hardware suppliers, that it hasn’t done so well with its HTC Flyer Android tablet (let alone the previous Windows-powered Shift that no-one seems to mention or even remember anymore).
The article also talks about Microsoft exerting more control over who it allows to be an OEM, especially for the Windows RT “ARM-powered” tablet range.
Naturally, Bloomberg quotes an MS representative, Frank Shaw, as stating that MS and HTC have a “strong relationship”, but said little more.
There’s also the suggestion that HTC will be allowed to make Windows RT tablets sometime next year, during the “second generation” of tablets that will come out.
This could actually be much, much better for HTC as the market will, in theory, be much more mature than it is on day one, and leaves HTC to focus on its all-important smartphone sales in the meantime.
A comparison with RIM was made in the article, noting how HTC could avoid being “distracted” by tablets as RIM has, but seeing that HTC has its Flyer and has presumably been seeking to create a Win 8 tablet, the distraction has already taken place.
So, if Windows 8 tablets take off as Microsoft hopes, there could be more room for additional Win 8 tablet players when the 2013 range of tablets come out, especially if they’re being made to strict Microsoft designs.
Whether the market can support so many players making the same thing with different badges on it is another question, and given the fierce competition that exists today in the PC and smartphone market, HTC presumably rightly fears being shut out.
That said, HTC has just released a 4G Windows Phone 7.5 model, and is surely planning a range of Windows Phone 8 devices for later this year, too, and while it is reportedly lowering projected revenues due to the downturn in Europe, we certainly can’t count HTC out.
Indeed, it would appear that RIM’s future is far more in question than HTC’s, so while a report that MS isn’t letting HTC make a Windows 8 tablet in the first batch is somewhat surprising and a tad worrying, it appears, upon reflection, the right thing for the company at this time, perhaps letting the company focus more firmly on “striking back” to win the hearts and minds of the buying public against its Galaxy-wide competitor - Samsung.