Could a One with stock Android be HTC's swan song?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: May 24, 2013

It isn’t looking good for HTC. Some might tell you that it was inevitable. Some may even say you could have seen it coming from a mile away. While others may try to convince you that this is just a slump, another hump in the road, but that HTC is going to overcome their troubles and bounce back. Sure, it may look like, right this second that the whole wide world is working against them, but the company has survived this long, and it’s certainly not been all rainbows and butterflies the whole time.

So, some might tell you that this just another hurdle, but not an impossible one. That, my friends, is looking at the glass half full! And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. In truth, I’ve got my fingers crossed for HTC, too. You’d be crazy to actually want HTC to go out of business. That just wouldn’t be cool, and that’s putting it nicely.

But the tea leaves are drifting around. People are making their estimations for what the future holds. Of course, the news isn’t helping much.

Hopefully you didn’t miss the recent reports, or you’d miss that reference. Well, we should probably go over it again anyway, just to cover our bases. HTC confirmed to AllThingsD that Chief Product Officer Kouji Kodera has left the company. That’s big news by itself, but it’s a snowball-turned-avalanche when you add it to the other departures: Jason Gordon, VP of global communications; Rebecca Rowland, manager of retail marketing; John Starkweather, director of digital marketing; and Eric Lin, product strategy manager. That’s a lot of talented executives jumping ship.

What’s more, Eric Lin threw in some color commentary on his way out the door, too. He went as far as to say that his friends working at the company should “just quit,” and that they’d be “so much happier” if and when they did. Ouch, Eric Lin. Ouch.

It isn’t good news, no matter how you look at it, but it is what it is. It’s a reality that HTC has to live with, and one that they’ve got to work with. They have to figure out how to change plenty of different things, both internally and with the consumer, and they have to figure all of it out pretty quickly. Our own Anna Scantlin suggested that HTC should “take a breather,” and essentially “go dark” while they try to figure all these things out.

But HTC has to keep making phones if they want to try and make money. Probably not phones like the HTC First, mind you, considering all the negativity swirling around that device these days. But, more devices like the One? Yes. Yes please, HTC. Your flagship device is only struggling due to component issues, and hopefully that gets figured out sooner, rather than later. Then maybe those five million units you’re sitting at right now can see a bigger boost in the next couple of months.

That gets me to the meat and potatoes. The One. The device that I, and many others, believe is simply the best Android-based piece of hardware around. And, if there are negative points against it, they come from the software. Specifically, the changes that HTC made to their proprietary Sense UI. So when a rumor starts to float around that HTC could be considering launching a One-like device with stock Android, there’s an obvious uptick in excitement.

This is the Nexus-branded device a lot of people have been waiting for. This is a Nexus One to replace the old Nexus One. (Please don’t call it the Nexus One, HTC.) This rumored device would immediately gain plenty of traction, especially if Google could sell it in the Play Store, and for something cheaper than what that stock Galaxy S 4 is going for.

If HTC is indeed planning a stock HTC One, could it be the company’s swan song? Could this be the device that they go out on? Like I said, I don’t like the idea of HTC going anywhere anytime soon at all, but the news keeps traveling downhill, and that can’t be good year-in and year-out. Would a device like a stock One be able to turn it around? That depends. It would depend on a lot of things, like marketing for instance, but also availability.

I’d love to see HTC stick around. Keep “kickin’ it,” or whatever the saying is these days. But there’s obviously a lot that the company has to figure out, work on, and get better before that can happen. Before they can really compete against Samsung and/or Apple. Both. Just one. Whichever.

Here’s a question that I’d like you to answer for me: even if HTC can make a phone that’s sitting high atop the Android pile like the One, but still be faced with all this downtrodden negativity, what would it take for the company to make a real, lasting comeback? Let me know what you think.

Products mentioned