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Google buys 2,000 HTC employees for US$1.1 billion to get instant smartphone chops

Brad Chacos and Michael Simon | Sept. 22, 2017
Google isn't buying HTC outright, but it's scooping up the talent behind the Pixel phones.

HTC has struggled in recent years. It was once the darling of the Android community, with the industrial HTC One and a long line of top-notch phones packing Beats Audio prior to Apple’s Beats acquisition. It's since slipped under intense competition from Samsung, Huawei, and others. HTC overhauled its smartphone lineup this year with new U branding and a mirror-like “liquid” surface. Despite a strong showing by the stunning, squeezable U11 ($650 on Amazon), however, HTC has sunk to bit-player status in the Android world.

Now, however, the brains behind those stellar devices work for Google, which clearly has big plans for future hardware. Watch out, Samsung.


What happens to HTC now?

HTC says it “will continue to have best-in-class engineering talent,” and those people are working on a successor to the HTC U11. Exact figures weren’t provided, but the New York Times reports that HTC CFO Peter Shen stated that the company would still have more than 2,000 research and design staffers after Google’s acquihire, compared to the roughly 4,000 people currently employed.

The company also says the $1.1 billion deal will enable “a more streamlined product portfolio,” which makes you wonder about the future of HTC’s mobile lineup. HTC’s phone business pretty much cratered over the past few years, with the company announcing its ninth straight quarterly loss in August 2017. I wouldn’t be surprised to see HTC’s future smartphone role evolve into something similar to BlackBerry and Nokia’s current strategy: Licensing its name out for use on hardware created, designed, and produced by third-party manufacturers.

htc u11 main
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

It sounds like HTC is doubling down on its Vive VR headset business as well. “Today’s news enables #TeamHTC to continue investing, innovating & leading in emerging tech, including #IoT #VR #AR #AI @HTCvive,” the company said in a tweet.

The Vive ($599 on Amazon) is currently the best PC-based VR headset available, and trademarks suggest a standalone “Vive Focus” headset may also be on the way. The Focus is expected to be powered by Qualcomm hardware and Google’s Daydream VR software, according to UploadVR, with six-degrees-of-freedom (6DOF) positional tracking similar to what you find in the PC-based Vive and Oculus Rift.


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