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Google Is Close to Buying HTC Assets to Bolster Hardware (bloomberg.com)
270 points by mcone on Sept 20, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 202 comments

Remember when google bought Motorola and we thought the moto x line was going to become the new nexus? And then they sold to lenovo and it's kind of been down hill in terms of software updates. Let's see what google extracts out of HTC and then sells to someone else with this company.

The rumour at the time was that Google fully intended to enter the hardware business. they wanted to keep Motorola forever and didn't just buy them for patents, but Samsung threw a hissy fit and threatened to drop android entirely if Google was going to compete with them directly. Moto was sold as part of a deal with samsung (samsung intro'd a tablet with a very microsoft-y UI shortly before google sold motorola, and after the sale the software was re-done to be much closer to stock android)

Presumably, with the Pixel line going head-to-head with the Galaxy S last year the situation has changed enough that Google no longer fears that Samsung will ditch Android. It's also worth noting that the rumour here is that Google will buy specific manufacturing and hardware assets from HTC, but will not buy the brand. So it's less of a "buying the company and keeping the parts they want" situation, and more of a "buy only the parts they want" situation.

I wish Google had just told Samsung they didn't care if they dropped Android back then - not sure what other OS Samsung would have switched to, but if Touchwiz is any indication it probably wouldn't have been very good.

Samsung's hardware today seems better, but for a long time the galaxy phones were cheap plastic builds with unwanted software customization on top. The few Motorola phones that came out during the Google ownership were nice.

If Google had built their own hardware back then (or had even gotten Nokia) I would probably have stayed on Android. For a long time starting around iPhone 5 the Apple hardware was a lot better (prior to that Apple lacked turn by turn navigation and LTE). The Nexus One was nice, but the S wasn't great and the Galaxy Nexus was terrible enough to switch.

Now Apple seems to be winning in security and new hardware features and everything else is fairly comparable.

Regardless of how bad Samsung's alternative would have been (probably Tizen, but possibly Windows Phone), it would still look incredibly bad for Android and Google for the news of the top Android OEM getting out of the Android space.

Maybe the thing that's changed is Google's assessment of the viability of Tizen or windows phone, or other alternative phone platforms. At this point Google might very well say to Samsung, go ahead and drop Android if you feel the need.

Yeah, at this point in the game if it's not Android or iOS it's dead in the water. Spinning up another platform is likely difficulty to impossible - we've seen so many try and fail, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Tizen, Jolla, Ubuntu. It's a chicken and egg problem, to get more users you need existing users making apps and bragging about their device.

The next big opportunity will be if and when some new category replaces phones for mobile computing, e.g. augmented reality glasses/contacts.

It's hopefully not impossible - look at history for numerous cases of dominant OSs being displaced by newcomers. What are the odds that we have arrived at the point in history where that never happens again?

Difficult? Yes. Very, very difficult.

>look at history for numerous cases of dominant OSs being displaced by newcomers...

Er, what? Let's see, what we're the dominant desktop OSes back in 1997? Windows and Mac. 20 years later? Still the same. Even 30 years ago it was DOS, the direct predecessor to Windows, and Mac.

In servers, various flavours of Unix have dominated for even longer. Arguably the dominant version at any one time was just the one that was closest to being a generic Unix as possible. Incompatible 'innovation' was punished mercilessly in the market.

The problem upstart OSes have to face is that encumbent OSes have established ecosystems of hardware and software support. Look at mobile. To compete with iOS you don't just have to compete with Apple, you have to compete with a $100bn+ ecosystem of apps, peripherals and services. Same with Android. Microsoft was just a few years behind them and it was too late even for them to break through with all their resources.

Unless Google or Apple do something monumentally stupid, they're going to stay dominant for decades to come.

Two quibbles: first, I'd argue that DOS, Windows 3.x/9x/ME, Windows NT are three separate OSs. Ditto MacOS and OSX.

Secondly, I think we're in agreement about the 'dominance for decades' thing. I should have said "Very, very hard ... and will take a long time."

Think of ITS, Symbolics, VMS, HPUX, Solaris, PalmOS, CP/M, OS/2 ... all once popular, now consigned to the dustbin.

Which of those ever had anything close to a 'dominant market position'?

Nothing time and money can't solve. And if there's one thing Google has, it's money.

The problem is that Google has the attention span of a hamster on crack. Instead of giving a new handset platform time to grow and mature, it'll jettison the whole project before it gets a chance to gain traction.

Same is true for most of Google's messaging apps: Gtalk, Buzz, Wave, Hangouts, Allo, Duo. Too many.

Because they implement the software manifesto build fast, ship often, fail quick to hardware. That's my opinion.

There is no way on earth Samsung would have dropped android. Google lost this game of chicken, that's for sure.

The entire Tizen project as well as continued efforts in Google competitors like Bixby is Samsung hedging their bets to leave. Samsung is probably the only Android OEM who could leave without going out of business: People would buy the next Galaxy no matter what it ran, and Samsung has the clout to push all the major app developers to push to their own store.

Some people would buy the next Galaxy. Plenty of people wouldn't, though, as soon as the helpful employee at the T-Mobile store warned them they couldn't reinstall their old apps on the new phone. It would be a really risky move. I imagine they'd have done it already if it weren't so likely to fail.

Bear in mind, Tizen supports Android apps. Samsung would have a lot of work to do here, but would have the pull to get the top X apps on their market, even if it took paying devs to list them. Then just add a migration tool like Google has on their Pixel devices that plugs into their old phone and downloads all of the same apps on their new phone (and probably would report back to Samsung which apps they were unable to do so with so they know who to encourage), and voila.

I'm sure there'd be some loss, but Samsung would likely come out doing fine. Even if they lost some market share, their profits would likely go up in the end, since they'd be the ones pulling the app market cuts and such.

>Then just add a migration tool like Google has on their Pixel devices that plugs into their old phone and downloads all of the same apps on their new phone

And be pleasantly surprised when none of their Google apps transfer over? Good luck with that.

Google Apps are important in some markets, but far less so in other markets.

Samsung might lose a percentage of the SV customerbase, but everyone who’s not relying on Google accounts wouldn’t really notice.

Multiple jurisdictions are investigating the antitrust implications of how Google Apps are controlled on Android.

We'll see if this is still a problem in a couple years.

Samsung already tried to have their own app market. It was terrible and failed. Other companies like RIM tried paying developers to port to their platform. It didn't make any difference.

It would not have access to Google services and would end like Windows phone.

Nope. Samsung would not have survived. First their stock price will drop as soon as they announced the departure from Android. The market would not have any confidence in any alternative, because history has taught us well. Second, as others have already pointed out, it is either Android or iOS. Try spin up a new mobile OS today and I guarantee you it would be hard to recreate the existing ecosystem. Samsung has the money, but good luck getting enough apps. You'd have to build a whole new interpolation layer so no one has to rewrite, ot rewrite as little as possible. That will take at least a year. Testing stability, reimplement every feature in modern mobile is going to be a multi-year project. By then, someone else would have taken Samsung's place. XiaoMi would is Samsung's contenter right now.

It is not just hedging their bets. One company can't rely on another company. You see it with Apple Maps, Siri, etc...

The alleged game of chicken, and we don’t know what else happened.

FYI,Samsung's tvs and watches are running Tizen instead of Android.

And they're horribly buggy messes. Samsung knows this, but is too stubborn to admit it.

Man, how different would the world be if Samsung had become a Windows Phone OEM?

Hard to tell, but I don't think it would have worked out since Google did not support their services on Windows Phone and, at the time, there were not good alternatives. (Although, personally I actually preferred alternate services such as Here Maps)

You might have said this about Nokia.

Samsung makes about 3-4 Billion profit in their smartphone division per quarter. I'd say it would have looked a lot worse for Samsung and their share price.

They would have just forked android.

Which would have been like Amazon's fork but crappier. And with a worse app store than Amazon.

This. I don't think anything Samsung has put out, with due deference to Samsung developers' work, has convinced me that Samsung management is capable of stewarding an Android fork sustainably with Google-equivalent resources. Much less with the fewer resources they'd have to spend on it.

My point wasn't that Samsung-Android would be Google equivalent but that AOSP was far ahead of Tizen and Windows Phone.

Google is as tied to Samsung as Samsung is to them. Until the last 2 years, Samsung was the only one making money selling Android. Now, we have a few chinese makers also making a few percent, while Samsung makes about 10% and Apple 90% of all mobile phone profits.

Samsung phones still come with garbage bloatware. I love the hardware but the first time I do whenever I upgrade to Galaxy Sn+1 is throw a custom ROM on it.

> not sure what other OS Samsung would have switched to

They may have invested more into Tizen: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tizen

I've owned multiple iPhones and about a dozen Androids. I loved the Nexus and to this day it was my favorite smartphone.

Yeah. I've got plenty of criticism for Google. But not this. Google isn't in the business of "trading" businesses to flip them for profit.

It's a 100x more plausible that they went in with optimism, and got snagged by something unanticipated. And what's more unanticipated yet powerful, than not a law, but a competitor with deep political and financial leverage in your company's markets? Those kind of power plays happen all the time in the advertiser and entertainment world.

Unanticipated that Samsung would freakout at a competitor directly from Google itself?

I remember a lot of talk about Samsung's Tizen operating system around then, so the most plausible explanation to me was that Google bought Motorola specifically to keep Samsung inline with a more stock android, end results hold up to that as well.

Of course it's always hard to figure out cause and effect, but Google never even appeared to go all in with Motorola on hardware beyond the initial purchase... smelled like a ploy.

its much more plausible that they initially treated moto as any other android vendor, and now they are willing to treat their internal hardware division as someone who gets exclusive features and special treatment, as they have with pixel.

i think google made a mistake not turning moto into googles flagship hardware, similar to the surface/dell/hp/lenovo relationship. intel does the same thing with nucs.

Interesting about the Samsung thing as only two months after Google bought Motorola and two weeks after Samsung announced the Galaxy 4 Google/Moto sent me email re: building my tech into the Moto X. My startup SpeakerBlast forces multiple devices to play the same audio in sync and Samsung just announced that feature (Group Play) in the Galaxy S4. At a meeting with them in SunnyVale I thought I finally hit the start-up jackpot.....


I've never believed that rumor of Samsung threatening to drop Android simply because it would have been financial suicide for their smartphone division. They currently have about 23% of the worldwide smartphone market and if they were to ever leave their marketshare would quickly be scooped up by other Android OEM's. Consumers want their Google Maps, Waze, Play Store and other Google services and for Samsung to think they would retain their marketshare by selling phones devoid of these services would be very shortsighted.

Perhaps Samsung believes if Google manufactured its own phones, Samsung's smartphone might as well be finished in a couple of years anyway - Google could gain some market share then eventually discontinue updating Android for other manufacturers. Then Samsung would truly be on its own.

On the one hand, this makes total sense to me. On the other, how could Google not have sounded out their partners before deciding to compete with them? When you buy something for $12 billion, hopefully there's a little forethought involved.

Also, does anybody know what the Motorola acquisition and sale cost them? They kept pieces of it, so I can't tell right away how it worked out.

Pretty sure that rumor is incorrect. Google just had strong aversion to losing hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter, and bifurcating its workforce into haves and have nots. The bifurcation problem is now solved with the Alphabet reorg. The loss problem very much remains.

Not sure if that's the case. Samsung was always developing Android and Windows based mobile devices -- though Android was selling in much larger quantity.

Both Moto and HTC were/are way past their prime and I personally think Google should just let it die and pick up distressed assets at bargain price when it goes belly up.

It'd be also interesting if Samsung would drop Android altogether and starts using MS mobile OS.

Samsung also has their own OS, Tizen, which seems like a hedge against Google. I'd be curious to know what it would take for them to pull the trigger and make it the default OS in the Galaxy line.

> just let it die and pick up distressed assets at bargain price when it goes belly up.

Doing that would mean that all the experience that could have been part of the deal will already be gone.

The whole reason Google bought Motorola in the first place was for the patents. They even said as much in [their blog post announcing the acquisition][1]:

> We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android. The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to “protect competition and innovation in the open source software community” and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.

They also were very careful to explain that they were _not_ buying Motorola in order to get into the hardware business:

> This acquisition will not change our commitment to run Android as an open platform. Motorola will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. We will run Motorola as a separate business. Many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success and we look forward to continuing to work with all of them to deliver outstanding user experiences.

I doubt Google's reasons for acquiring HTC are the same in this case. If in fact this time they _are_ planning to use HTC to get into the hardware business (and that seems likely, given their efforts with the Pixel line recently) you should expect them to handle this acquisition in a completely different way from how they handled Motorola.

[1]: https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/supercharging-androi...

Yes! As a former Googler, Google has a terrible track record with hardware companies: Motorola, Nest, Dropcam, Boston Dynamics, etc.

I don't see this as going anywhere.

Why do you think it is Google struggles so with Hardware companies, as a former Googler?

I'm not a Googler, but my guess is, it's just not in their company DNA. They are and always have been a software company.

*service company


You might want to correct it as Dropcam. For a moment, I was like when did this happen :)

Dropbox? Was there a hardware company of the same name?

Big typo! I meant Dropcam, which was doing extremely well before it joined Google and then had a lot of issues with its integration with Nest.

>Remember when google bought Motorola and we thought the moto x line was going to become the new nexus?

Interestingly Google announced today that the Moto X4 will be the first Android One phone in the US [0], and it has Nexus like pricing ($399). Looks like it may be a Google Fi exclusive for now, though.


Can anything really be "Google-Fi exclusive"? Aren't Fi phones just phones that have radios for every US band and a Fi SIM card?

I just tried to order on their website. I can't buy the phone or do the nexus trade-in (a measy $100 for a 5X) unless I subscribe to the service. Not a biggie, I can do $20 for a month and cancel, but its still an annoying hoop to jump through. The phone should be unlocked for all carriers.

Worse, the non-Fi X4 which may or may not sell in the states has Amazon Alexa which may be difficult or impossible to disable or make work with Google Assistant.

That said, the Moto G5S is coming out soon which will have slightly better specs than the G5 Plus out today. It will be for sale at every Best Buy and phone store and will cost about the same as the X4. Not sure if there's big differentiation between the the X4 and the G5S.

G5S Plus what is what you want. The G5S is a G5 upgrade and worse than the G5 Plus.

It can be locked down to only accept Fi SIM cards.

Google Fi phones will accept any SIM card, they're not locked down at all. However, the Google Fi service will only work properly with designated phones. If you stick a Fi SIM in a non-Fi unlocked phone, you only get T-Mobile service.

(I've done this with a backup phone - both an iPhone 7 and a Moto E4 - when my Pixel was being RMAed)

To be fair: HTC is already a manufacturer for Google-designed hardware, which Motorola never was. I've said it before that this acquisition is best understood in terms of vertical integration than technology. If Google believes the future Pixel line (and similar devices) are going to make decent money, then buying HTC makes sense even if they don't change the working relationship between the employees at all.

Motorola made the Nexus 6 (although it really was more of a Motorola phone than a Google phone).

I think you must not of heard that once they sold the company to Lenovo they still kept the Patents. Most likely they will do the same.

See https://techcrunch.com/2014/01/29/google-keeps-vast-majority...

"Let's see what google extracts out of HTC"

Patents and/or other assets may have been exactly what they were referring to.

Same what Nokia did with smartphones. They sold remaining phone manufacturing and marketing to Microsoft but kept all patents, Nokia Research and even the Nokia brand.

Smartphone market is in the state of business where manufacturing, R&D and brand marketing can be separated and mixed freely. Especially in the Android ecosystem.

> it's kind of been down hill in terms of software updates

I don't think this is accurate. Even phones that were released during Google's ownership didn't receive any updates (during Google's ownership or after). It seems like Google never intended to own it, they just scraped it for people and patents.

Wait, when did Google become a private equity firm? I'm liking tech less and less.

When they changed there name and announced the intention of becoming a multifaceted holding co.


Bought Boston Robotics and sold to SoftBank :)

When Google bought Motorola, Android was under serious assault from patent trolling, and the move looked to most people to be mainly defensive to quickly build up a defensive warchest. It's my impression that Google never intended to become a serious competitor in the handset market, perhaps for fear of stepping on the toes of its partners like Samsung, so it was content to let Motorola operate as an independent entity as if Google were a holding company.

This is just my personal opinion with no more knowledge than anyone else, but this HTC acquisition looks different than Motorola. It has the hallmarks of an acqui-hire, and which implies Google may no longer be content to just sit by as a cornucopia of OEMs ship commodity HW using off the shelf stuff and small tweaks, as that's never going to pull the market forward like Apple can do with vertical integration.

Google already has serious problems with its culture that prevents it from consistently shipping consumer products. Adding HTC's overhead and shrinking market share is adding more fuel to the fire.

If Andy Rubin can ship a mobile phone in just two years with ~100 employees, maybe Google could take a similar approach by funding a totally independent startup that's not burden by its culture yet has access to all of Google's resources.

Did Essential actually build their phone, or did they simply contract an OEM to do it? Looks like LG might be the true maker of this device: http://phandroid.com/2017/05/30/essential-phone-manufacturer...

According to the FCC test report [0], the manufacturer is "FIH Mobile Limited", which Google says is owned by Foxconn.

[0] https://fccid.io/2ALBB-A11/Test-Report/Test-Report-3524146.p...

It seems pretty easy these days to get an OEM phone made. Even Pepsi commissioned their own smartphone:


Even teenagers are commissioning their own smartphone: http://www.androidpolice.com/2017/09/05/frank-isnt-just-phon...

What do you mean defensive warchest? You can't sue a patent troll for patent infringement because they don't produce any products. So how does owning lots of patents protect you from patent trolls?

I consider Microsoft the patent troll in this case. (https://www.wired.com/2013/11/rockstar-2/)

Microsoft at the time was bragging about Android licensing revenues and basically using whatever they had, including non-practiced patents, to threaten Android OEMs into submission.

I think this is a good deal for nobody but those HTC engineers Google is going to hire, at least short term.

The $330M price is so low none of the HTC investors are going to make any money on it. HTC's mobile phone business has been unprofitable for years and Google won't make any money on it either.

Who knows maybe Google is planning on using the HTC business unit as a sort of an R&D lab for Android hardware, with no real plan on making it a traditionally profitable business.

Considering the recent Pixels were made by HTC, I think Google just wants to cut out the middle man and have its own phone hardware business for the Pixel. This allows them to compete with Apple by having an official flagship and by being able to produce this flagship without the added cost of another company's profits and the whims of cellphone OEMs too focused on their own branded products, and all the inefficiencies that brings.

HTC has everything Google needs for an in-house Pixel from soup to nuts and they're hurting for money. Its a happy coincidence HTC is collapsing right when Google is getting serious about launching its own branded flagship phones.

I also suspect aggressive moves like this mean that Samsung is probably going to pull the trigger on a full Tizen move and eventually stop producing android phones. The Pixel is aimed right at Galaxy buyers. I'm skeptical this is just a coincidence. The agreement that Nexus was kinda, sorta a developer's phone and will always be hobbled by mid-range camera, battery, and storage seems to have ended with the Pixel line.

I just received a Pixel after my 6P died and its about the closest to iPhone quality I've seen on an Android device. Its clearly a serious attempt by Google to have a proper branded flagship.

As much as it's entertaining to see Samsung try to prop up Tizen as a deterrent against Google, it hardly seems ready for mass adoption.

It likely isn't a top priority for Samsung, so resources on it could likely be better. I presume if Samsung decided to actually pull the trigger, they'd release one last Android phone while massively ramping up the scale of their Tizen division to get it ready to ship.

I don't see why Google needs their own phone hardware business anymore than I see Apple acquiring Foxconn because they need their own phone hardware business. Apple or Google does not want to take on the overhead of manufacturing phones. HTC has a very good R&D department and that's likely the crown jewel of what Google is after. I would be surprised if this was more than just a acquihire.

If only they didnt have their own phone hardware divison previously.

Evan Blass claims Google is acquiring some engineering assets of HTC, and that HTC will retain the brand name.

That seems to support my hypothesis about the R&D lab.

source: https://twitter.com/evleaks/status/910458246082826240

serious question: what is the most impressive tech that has come out of HTC R&D in recent years? (for phones)

HTC is producing the Pixel phones, so making fatcat investors happy might not be the first priority for Google.

I also like how you framed something being good (only) for workers like a bad thing :)

That was unintentional. ;)

It's just that usually M&A is only about money. Employees are just a cost item.

I‘ve seen it the other way around before :)

It's just an acqui-hire. "Google will keep the HTC brand and take on about 100 HTC engineers". Who won't get $3.3 million each.

Those $3.3 million per engineer correspond to roughly 100 years of current salaries, according to the numbers I posted elsewhere in this thread. :/

Those numbers seem exceptionally low and it seems unlikely Google would think these engineers worth paying a premium for if the rest of the industry apparently does not (i.e. if they're worth that much, they should have left to work somewhere else already).

Engineering seems widely undervalued as a profession in many asian locales (not in Beijing/Shanghai/Shenzhen though, but then you have to use air- and internet filters). I don't think they have any easy options if they want to stay in Taiwan.

What are engineering salaries like at HTC in Taipei?

(A chinese-speaking friend of mine with excellent credentials and capabilities in OS quality graphical design was seriously low-balled when applying for a job there.)

Answering myself:

According to Glassdoor:

Software Engineer: 20k USD/year

Senior Software Engineer: 24k USD/year

Principal Engineer: 29k USD/year


I get that it's not exactly Silicon Valley, but, wow.

I've a made a bunch of Taiwanese friends when I was working in Korea, including former HTC employees, and salary was often the main motivation for their move (easily double in Korea, adjusted to CoL).

Funnily enough they've now all left, to mainland China!

How does that actually compare to cost of living, tax climate, and wages for other jobs in the area, though? Posting the USD amount provides zero information. If the median income is $8k USD then $29k is pretty fantastic. If it's $60k...

I did a write up in 2014[1] when I was a bum English teacher there. (edit: man those charts are garbage, sorry folks, best of luck in that article :P )

In short, it's cheap as hellllllll. Rent was like 270/month, food and fun was nothing, life is so so so good in Taiwan. I stress regularly about Chinese bluster regarding Taiwan, it is an incredible country I really believe is chock full of opportunity.

My journey to become a software engineer started there. Now that I've snuck my way into frontend, it's my goal as I get more experienced and senior to eventually move back there and start remote contracting or start my own business there. I'm still convinced I could get the best engineers in Taiwan to work for me by just paying them 50k flat out (they make like 20-30/year and are expected to work 9am-9pm, sometimes weekends, arbitrarily) and giving them reasonable (to an American) benefits.


Do you know what types of platforms, languages, specializations, etc. that Taiwanese engineers tend to be strong at? Besides matters related to hardware/firmware.


Found this comment which I am going to blindly trust. ;) So, for reference, the HTC salaries were in the range of 50-70k NTD/month.

"90% of people working in Taipei make from 22-68k a month. College grads often make 22k a month out of College and those with a Master Degree start at 30,000NT a month. They spend about 5 years to make 40k a month. An Engineer might make 50k-75k a month. The only reason the Average is skewed to 70k is because Taipei has millionaires and billionaires that skew these numbers. It in NO WAY represents what the everyday working Taiwanese or Foreigner generally makes.


Min Wage 18,000

Factory Work 18,000-20,000

Typical Office Worker 22,000-40,000

Nurse 30,000-40,000

Taxi Driver 60,000-70,000

Flight Attendant 50,000-60,000?

Foreign English Teacher 55,000-70,000

Engineer 50,000-70,000

Doctor 150,000-400,000

Foreigner Specialist with Foreign Income---150,000-300,000"

Note that in Taiwan, most companies offer a year-end bonus (at Chinese new year) of several months of salary. At the minimum this is 1 or 2 months, but depending on individual or company performance, it can go as high as 4 months (and in extreme cases, even more!). Hence the monthly salaries need to be multiplied by 14x or 16x or more, rather than 12x to get an annual salary.


That's low, about 4 years ago it was standard 30k for college grad. Glassdoor often underestimates.

Anyway this is just hearsay of course, before anybody would believe any of this I would say let's get the census in or something.

I saw a bunch of comments saying that the salaries used to be good (presumably when HTC did really well a bunch of years ago).

Many positions that require higher education (unlike software engineering) don't even touch those figures in some EU countries.

Or is Taipei that expensive?

edit: saw the comment bellow

This would have been great if Google had bought HTC about three years ago, back when it was making the HTC One M7. The company was struggling then, but still had plenty of prestige.

The problem now is that HTC has been sinking for so long that most of its famous engineers and personnel have long since jumped ship, so I'm not even sure Google will get much out of this acqui-hire. I would assume that none of this involves the Vive, as that seems too profitable right now for HTC to sell.

Don't get me wrong, if we got another HTC Google Play Edition phone using an HTC 10 successor (really don't like the U11, go back to the HTC One design template, please), that would be awesome. But I'm not holding my breath.

Honest question : Is the Vive really profitable ?

It seems to me that this current generation of VR is a niche that lacks any killer app and that any tangible improvement is very incertain

Yea, but they can charge any amount of money for it. The market is so small, that they can charge arbitrary profit for the best headset in the market.

They also make all the peripheral and headset prerequisties and components, so when people compete on new peripherals or headsets, they still win.

How do you know that HTC has been losing their good engineers?

Otherwise, I had long thought that this move by Google would be to bolster their manufacturing capabilities, less so a move to acqui-hire amazing engineers.

Well, first their lead of VP of Design, Scott Croyle quit in 2014: https://www.engadget.com/2014/04/25/htc-design-head-leaving/

Then his successor, Jonah Becker, left about ten months after: https://www.engadget.com/2015/03/26/htc-jonah-becker-resigns...

And finally, Google poached one of the lead engineers behind the Vive: https://www.theverge.com/2017/1/26/14395134/google-daydream-...

I have no clue if Daniel Hundt, seen here talking about the One M7 design, is still with HTC or not: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V95163BU-sY

> most of its famous engineers and personnel have long since jumped ship

so 2 VPs, and a third that jumped ship...to Google...ok Admiral...salutes

Pretty much all the good engineers I knew on the US and Taiwan side left years ago.

Once Samsung started dropping $B on marketing it was unfortunately only a matter of time. Your average consumer doesn't do deep research and tends to just buy what's advertised heavily.

Source: Ex-HTC from '10 era.

I mean, it's likely because it is really hard to differentiate in the smartphone market. The things that change y/y are kind of minute details in the scheme of things. (It's not like a competitive smartphone today would release without a GPS chip, for example)

Google is also poaching quite a few Apple hardware engineers if my group of acquaintances is any evidence. I wonder if they're going full on into hardware production with tight integration like on the iPhone?

I'm not sure what "going full on" means, but to me it seems like they already have with the Pixel and soon Pixel 2. But yes, it seems like they are still ramping up higher.

What's interesting about this is that HTC has a 10 year licensing deal with Apple that expires in 2022 [1]

Wonder if that deal came with a poison pill. I doubt Apple wants to be a counterparty to a mobile licensing deal with Google at this point.

[1] https://www.engadget.com/2012/11/10/apple-htc-patent-settlem...

Neither Apple nor Google want to get into a patent war, but neither want to be unprepared for one either. This is just another bit of stockpiling.

What leaves me curious is what's to happen of the Vive hardware line that Valve sells made by HTC.

I don't think it really matters. All of the meaningful technology behind Vive (Lighthouse sensors, SteamVR, and the associated IMU firmware) is all developed and licensed to pretty much anyone who wants it by Valve. In the end Vive will be the VR equivalent of the first Android phone. A breakthrough piece of tech which led the way for an entire ecosystem of products to develop, but forgotten and obsolesced in it's own right.

I really hope you're wrong as it is currently the best VR headset on the market and the most promising one as well.

LG is working on a SteamVR headset that uses Lighthouse and seems to be roughly on par, if not better than Vive. https://www.theverge.com/2017/3/2/14769624/lg-valve-vr-heads....

I think OPs point was, even if HTC stops manufacturing Vive there will be Vive quality or better headsets that use Lighthouse tracking, which along with the upcoming knuckle controllers and vive trackers are the real competitive advantage Vive has over Rift or Microsoft MR headsets in PC VR.

Windows is putting VR into the OS at the driver layer. This will open up a lot of new device opportunities. I am not sure if VIVE has a major competitive advantage in that scenario.

HTC has an entirely different division for VR which is not included in this sale.

Most likely its the only profitable part of HTC and is mostly safe from anything negative this acquisition might bring.

Ah, that would've been interesting for Google to own too, considering they've been dabbling in VR, and have actually created content for the Vive such as the drawing app or Google Earth.

I've seen other people state this but never seen a source. Do you know this to be fact? How?

I would be positively surprised if the continued the open approach (no walled garden) that Valve initiated.

Makes sense. Own the hardware and the software and create a seamless experience. It's what Apple has been doing for years. Hopefully, they can pull that off if that's indeed the aim: I might consider a Google/HTC device if they pull it off and heck it might be running Fuschia and not android and that'd be compelling to me.

It's a shame Google doesn't care about its users and actually goes out of its way to inconvenience and blame customers who experience issues with their products. Sorry but I can get my iPhone repaired or replaced in any major city on short notice and it's generally a pleasant experience. Good luck getting Google to even take manufacturing defects seriously [1]. Stop giving this company your money.

[1] https://9to5google.com/2016/12/09/google-pixel-screen-peelin...

Reminds me of the Nexus One when the power buttons failed left and right - both Google and HTC left many customers with expensive paperweights.

Zircon (previously named Magenta) is their new microkernel. Fuchsia is the full system.

My biggest complaints about the Pixel line is are price and availability -- are these going to be addressed, or will Pixel phones continue to be overpriced and out of stock?

It seems to me that Google are intentionally sabotaging the success of their Pixel phone lineup. I would hate for the Nexus 6P to be my last Google phone.

I'm not convinced Google is really trying to make their hardware competitive. They are just using it to up the Android game and focus on specific features they may feel other manufacturers aren't doing a great job with or not highlighting, which is currently their assistant, as well as having a more intimate connection to some enthusiasts. Google's goal is to get many devices dependant on their ecosystem. Directly competing with other companies that use Android would not work in their interest. I hope I'm wrong though, Google directly backing a competitive and available consumer device could really put smartphones into a better territory of cost and support. Currently Samsung is quite halfhearted; while I think their hardware is great their support is more like the support one gets from a fridge than such an important and personal information device, it just doesn't compare to Apple's support.

I got a note about a phone-related release October 4th, so I'm reserving judgement until then.

Until Google is willing to truly support their Pixel/Nexus devices for more than 2 years, I'm not sure what difference this will really make. Not that Samsung and others are all that great, but I guess I had hope that Google might do more with their branded phones.

Mistakes are meant to be repeated. /s

Still, an open question is why would they feel the need to buy an exisiting company? Couldnt they simply recreate a hardware company from scratch with their resources? HTC is not exactly a world leader or some unique innovator here.

What HTC has here is experience, facilities and a supply chain. Recreating a hardware company from scratch is not an easy job. You don't get any prebuild packages that you can just reuse. You have to assemble your own design team. Build your own supply chain. Conduct R&D for years before getting a viable, marketable product. Even then there is no guarantee of everything going smoothly. Samsung has decades of experience and facilities. Yet the Note 7 went the way it did.

I doubt Google or any of these new age silicon valley companies have the attention span to do something like this.

As I have written upthread, Andy Rubin has launched a pretty damn successful mobile phone startup in just two years with a staff of 100 people. Seems like a better example to emulate than take over a failing company with 1% market share and ~14k employees.

You need to cite or qualify the phrase "pretty damn successful". Essential is not a success story yet.

Are you talking about Essential? Is it successful?

Like the new Nokia phones, Essential is an Foxconn supported project.

> HTC is not exactly a world leader or some unique innovator here

It used to be. There was a time, not so long ago, where HTC Desire and others were the Android phones to have. Their engineers are great, you can't deny that.

The question is: are any of them still working there?

They have the DNA.

HTC made the first Android phone (G1). They made the first 4.3" smartphone (Evo for Sprint). They made the first 4G (albeit WiMAX) phone sold in the United States (Evo again). Their newest phone the HTC U 11 is arguably one of the most aesthetically attractive personal computing devices in production today.

I use Apple products across the board, but there's no denying that HTC has some serious hardware chops.

Yes and they were making smartphones before that too. In fact they were the first phone manufacturer that only made smartphones.

I don't think HTC gets enough credit for their part in the smartphone revolution. Even when they were making windows CE devices they were pushing the UX and phone build quality forward, including making launchers that resemble what Android turned out to be.

The only piece they were missing was capacitive screens. With that they could have made history.

Then Motorola was threatening to sue other android phone makers if Google did not make a move. Google took strategic decision to acquire motorola. In 3 years patent war kind of subsided. Google saved a bunch of tax against big motorola losses, and avoided patent war among Android phone makers.

So in term of bigger goals it was not total failure. And now situation is different, patent wars are mostly gone. Google can use HTC hardware expertise quickly for newer devices. Also unlike last time Android/OS unit is far more integrated than Andy Rubin days, so better chance of success. I am thinking Google Fuschia OS project might also get hardware help from HTC acquisition.

OTOH, making mistakes is the best way to learn. Maybe they'll do it differently and knock it out of the park this time.

My bet is Google is also buying HTC VR/AR asset so that they can release an AR hardware before Apple’s AR Glass next year.

HTC has zero AR property. Vive is VR exclusively, tethered to a PC, and the tech is from Valve. HTC may have some research but it's either very secretive or not worth bidding for - which scenario is more likely?

They've already announced a standalone Vive in partnership with Google:


They haven't sold it as anything but VR for now, but it could have AR capabilities. (And HTC has some sort of AR apps like Vive Paper for the standalone Vive, it has a camera).

Google is releasing a standalone VR headset, built by HTC, this year.

Seriously...do these guys have short term memory loss?

Serious question:

I have an iPhone 6+ -- and it is 90% great. (some UX choices suck on a bigger device, I cant hit certain buttons when one-handing the device)

I really like the essential....

I hear good things about the Pixels.

I would only up to the iPhone X for water resistence...

They are all nearly $1K

(I worked in Intel's game developer relations lab in the 90s when they were trying to prove that a <$1k computer was even possible (Celeron's with SIMD)...

Now its like a phreaking phone is going to be hitting/pushing the ~$1K mark....

Should I get a new phone, and if so, of those three, which would be best?

IMO the only two phone manufacturers worth considering are Apple and Samsung. Their devices are the most polished, the customer support is good, the hardware is innovative. Just compare the latest iPhone and the latest Galaxy and buy the one you like.

Everything else is an also ran. You will always have some shitty problem that will ruin your experience. For example, camera with Sony, random Bluetooth glitches with pixel, generally shitty reliability from HTC and LG, weird sim card issues with Xiaomi, WiFi issues with OnePlus.

Both of them may seem a tad too expensive if you compare similar hardware from others, with Apple even more expensive than Samsung. But the extra money is there for a reason. It takes more money to deliver a good experience. It takes more money to develop your own chips and your own software.

Google will show the Pixel 2 and 2 XL in about two weeks, but the leaks doesn't look very impressive. The Essential doesn't get great reviews. The best Android phone this fall is probably the LG V30. LG is also the manufacturer of the Pixel 2 XL, so chances are it will be a watered down version of LG's own model. If you want a smaller phone the Sony XZ1 compact is your best bet.

Why not the iPhone 8? Of course, an iPhone 8 Plus with 256GB of memory is right up near $1k as well.

I'm switching back from a Samsung Galaxy S8, which like the iPhone X has an OLED screen and doesn't feature a home button (Samsung is making the iPhone X's screen). Just too much time waiting for it to recognize me. It wasn't a lot, but enough to be annoying.

I have the S8, and although the rear fingerprint sensor is less convenient than the front, I haven't even considered using the face or iris unlock.

Just stick your finger round the back and you'll be happy.

> Google has tried to buy its way into hardware twice before, albeit more expensively.

Google bought Danger which got Android. Motorola was a failure yes. So not twice but once.

Incorrect. Microsoft bought Danger and it gave rise to their Kin phone effort. Andy Rubin did start Danger, but he left before the Microsoft acquisition to start Android, which is what Google bought.

They should instead buy a SoC company like mediatek and build own SoC competing apple AX series and Qualcomm 800 series with additional processing engine like neural engine etc.. also they should buy imagination technologies previous GPU technology supplier for apple which is already up for sale

This could greatly enhance android and they can start selling SoC along with software. If not they are dependent on Qualcomm to catch up with apple.

Or they could do what Apple does and design their SoC's and send off the designs to TSMC for fabrication. Google has already poached Apple's lead chip architect in June of this year.


It's interesting to watch the game of telephone unfold right before your eyes.

>>> Google has already poached Apple's lead chip architect in June of this year.

No where has it been mentioned that the person they poached was Apple's "lead" chip architect. All it says is that google poached An architect from Apple to be it's SoC lead.

There were strong rumors 1 or 2 years ago that Google was interested in building its own silicon in order ot have the SoC they want for the future of Android.

Even if it is true, with Google's pathological lack of focus, this could have already been abandoned though.

True, I still feel Boston Dynamics has lot of potential in future, But google just sold it.. I dont know why they dont want to have a loss making division with high revenue possibility in the future.

Guess OMAP division was too expensive for them back in the day? A shame.

I'm surprised Google would be interested in "only 100 engineers" from HTC that I almost don't see the point. Are those engineers that important to Google's smartphone hardware efforts? Is it that much easier to acquihire them for $300 million than hire them one by one?

Buying an existing team probably makes more sense than starting one.

And if they tried to hire all 100 they'd probably be exposed to a lawsuit (plus they'd end spending a lot on bonuses and relocations anyways)

A lot of people are discussing this purchase as a way to bolstering Google's hardware R&D prowess, which I sort of don't understand: what are some of the most impressive phone innovations that came from HTC in the past 5 years?

Just off the top of my head some things that HTC did before anyone else:

  * First LTE phone in america (Thunderbolt)
  * Dual front speakers (BoomSound)
  * Low-MP camera (Ultrapixel)
  * Unibody aluminum phone (One M7)
  * Squeezable edges (U11)
  * Glasses-free 3d display (Evo 3d)
I am sure I am forgetting some.

HTC has always had really nice hardware on their phones and once in a while they get the software right too. While a lot of these innovations have failed in the market, in the right hands they could all be just what Google (or some other company) needs to get in front of this market.

I appreciate some of these, but some I'm not sure I do for all of them. Just because they released something before everyone else doesn't mean there was real brilliance behind it --- do people really care that squeezing the phone is a new medium for interacting with it? (Maybe it's too early to tell for this one, but I have my doubts.)

First LTE phone: I'm not sure I see why this is "innovation" on its own; the LTE specs were known for years before LTE networks rolled out, and I don't think HTC made the low-level components that made it possible anyway (e.g., the filters). Not that it didn't require some new work, but I'm not sure the R&D dept. had to work hard on this one.

Low-MP camera: why is this important and/or innovative?

BoomSound: Is this really innovation? It didn't create much of a trend in the smartphone market, and it used off-the-shelf parts.

I don't know much about the 3d display unfortunately.

I should have been clearer with my comment though, and asked what they have done that have been impactful and clearly required a huge amount of expertise, i.e., things Google might be interested in.

As an example of something that might fit the sort of work I am thinking about is this: https://atap.google.com/soli/

None of these are really scientific breakthroughs but it shows HTC can be on the cutting edge of phone hardware.

To address what you mentioned:

  * First LTE phone means they were ahead on hardware integration, testing, and price to get to market first.
  * The Low-MP camera demonstrates that they saw the end of the highest-megapixel wars and the shift towards picture quality being subjective.
  * BoomSound has certainly kicked off a trend,  The iPhone 7 made a big deal (TV ads, etc) about its much louder dual speakers.  Nobody before HTC cared about phone speakers.

Please don't use code blocks for text quoting. They cause side scrolling which can be annoying in desktop browsers and nigh unreadable on mobile.

Common methods to quote text blocks on HN are to use a > prefix and/or asterisks to italicize the quoted text.

Anecdotal, and nothing super groundbreaking, but my HTC One M9 has a camera I'd say gives the iPhone the besg running for its money out of any Android I've seen. The phone is also an absolutely solid build...many years of ownership and I've never had a case, yet I've dropped it on at least six occasions with no problems. I'd say HTC is the Nokia of smart phones when it comes to durability. Finally, the software experience--up until ATT nearly FUBARed it with OTA trash--has been extremely pleasing.

So it's an elegant phone at a price a few hundred dollars cheaper than an iPhone with honestly a very similar feel all around. Unfortunately, though, I don't plan to buy a new version beyond what is currently available if they are vacuumed up by Google.

M9 was known for a shitty camera with fucked up colors. Did you forget the pink tint?

Hmm, never happened on my phone at all. Maybe I got a good batch. Again--I said it was only anecdotal :)

So, can someone explain me why they sold Motorola? I can't understand their strategy.

They basically wanted the patents Motorola held. They kept the patents and sold the rest to Lenovo

They also kept ATAP.

From a selfish standpoint it would be nice for me if they could get back into phones and offer a mid range pixel (call it whatever) type device that gets regular security updates and etc.

It's interesting to me that a tweet from a single well respected journalist (@evleaks) can set off a huge chain reaction of coverage.

And we all know how well that worked out for Motorola Mobility. Especially for its fungible "people resources".

And just a year after canceling Project Ara!

I realize the overhead of a modular phone would make that phone lesser than an equivalent price/weight non-modular, but at least Google would have had something unique in what's quickly becoming a stale industry.

Instead they chose to compete head-on with the iPhone, and it's clear they're not doing too well at that.

Is this for their new OS? (Fuchsia?)

Fushia running on risc-v with AV1 codec in hardware. You need to throw all the new tech in there.

Fuchsia kernel RISC-V port: https://github.com/slavaim/riscv-magenta

That's good, but Google has recently forked Magenta into Zircon:


And the arch folder in the Zircon repo seems to only have x86 and ARM at the moment. Perhaps they still need to pull a few changes over ;-)


>Google will keep the HTC brand and take on about 100 HTC engineers

Only 100 engineers? They are not planning on retaining HTC's phone unit any much functional.


Recommend buying?

It's about time! Google should have bought a handset maker years ago! It can't fail!

Google used to own Motorola Mobility.

That's the joke.

Sarcasm doesn't always convey correctly over text, especially when there are folks around who don't know that this is not the first time Google has been down this road.

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