Ina Fried

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HTC Says Its One Voice Has Been Too Quiet

After several years of marketing itself as “quietly brilliant,” Taiwanese phone maker HTC is looking to rediscover its voice.

“We can’t be quiet,” HTC President Jason Mackenzie said in an interview. “As a challenger brand … we have to be more bold,” Mackenzie said.

Flying high until hitting severe turbulence last year, HTC has been trying to regain its footing. After introducing dozens of models last year, HTC made a bet this year to put more weight behind fewer products — particularly its One family.

But sales have continued to slide amid steep competition at the once-white-hot Taiwanese cellphone maker.

“We’re going through some challenges, and we’re in an ultracompetitive marketplace,” Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie suggests that the problems are understandable and even to be expected. HTC, after all, is a comparatively small company against technology giants like Apple, Samsung, Motorola and Nokia. Mackenzie said the company understands and actually welcomes the challenge.

But, less clear is what the solution is to the company’s sales woes.

HTC’s products continue to be well received and to get favorable reviews. And while Mackenzie talks about a need for the company to be bolder, it will continue to see itself being vastly outspent by Samsung and Nokia.

For his part, Mackenzie said the company needs to take back more of its own marketing, rather than using so much of its budget pushing its products jointly with carriers.

Mackenzie notes that changing with the times is something HTC has done before. The company got its start building handheld computers and cellphones for companies such as Palm and HP.

But, around the end of last decade, the company decided it needed to step out of the shadows and sell products under its own name. That move, he said, was also a painful one that led the stock price to plummet.

“We are a company that has gone through change and understands change,” he said.

Plus, Mackenzie said, not all the financial data is bad.

“Our overall business from a sales perspective is not where we want it but the HTC One is bearing initial fruit,” he said.

HTC also remains profitable, something that Mackenzie said relatively few cellphone companies can claim.

The company is set to introduce its next set of products at a New York event next week. Mackenzie was mum on the specifics, but said that HTC remains committed to both its Android and Windows Phone lines.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik