HTC open to buying OS, patents, president said

HTC Corp., under attack by Apple Inc., said it’s open to many options including buying its own operating system and acquiring patents, the president of HTC America said.

On Monday, the founder of HTC reportedly said he would consider buying an operating system. When asked about those comments at the Mobile Future Forward conference in Seattle, Martin Fichter, president of HTC America, confirmed it’s an option. “If there’s a need in the market to provide more choice, we will be all over it. So yes, we’re looking at all kinds of options to provide more choice,” he said.

Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are currently dominating the smartphone market in the U.S. HTC predominantly makes Android phones, but that platform is under heavy fire from companies including Apple that are attacking it in the courts. Industry observers have been speculating about whether a company like HTC might be interested in buying a foundering OS, such as MeeGo or webOS.

HTC is also looking into buying patents so that it can better defend itself in court, Fichter said. HTC, and many others, have been rumored to be interested in a patent portfolio owned by InterDigital, which has said it is shopping its portfolio around. “I won’t deny we are looking at things like that,” Fichter said. “But that’s not the core of what we’re trying to do. We’d rather leverage our own inventions than buy patents, because it’s a waste of our assets to do that. But if we have to, we’d consider it.”

HTC hasn’t fared well in its battle with Apple. The U.S. International Trade Commission issued an initial determination in July that HTC infringed two Apple patents. The ITC has also agreed to investigate a separate complaint against HTC filed by Apple, and is also investigating an HTC complaint against Apple.

“The problem we’re having as an industry is the energy that should go into developing new technologies, new user experiences, goes into fighting off patent wars,” Fichter said.

In addition to the problem with Apple, HTC faces a potential issue with Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola. Fichter didn’t seem to have any more insight into Google’s intentions, echoing most observers who say it’s not clear if Google is making the acquisition primarily for the patents or if it will end up competing with customers like HTC by giving Motorola handsets an advantage.

“I don’t know how Google and Motorola will work together in the future,” he said. “We will look at our options and will look at whatever needs to be done to be successful.”

Another option for HTC is to rely more on Windows Phones. HTC is looking forward to the next generation of Windows Phone software, Fichter said. The current generation of Windows Phones have been hampered because they don’t support 4G, he said. Operators are pushing their 4G devices and so haven’t been focusing on sales of Windows Phone 7 devices, he said.

On Monday, AT&T announced that it will start selling three new 4G Windows Phone devices in the fourth quarter, including two from Samsung and one from HTC.

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