宏達電hTC烙印台灣名牌

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2010 / 1月

文‧楊齡媛


2009年,是台灣智慧型手機龍頭宏達電(HTC)波折起伏的一年。8月初才將「股王」頭銜拱手讓給一手掀起中國「山寨機」熱潮的聯發科,之後又因自有品牌HTC HD2在歐洲熱賣供不應求而扳回一城。


宏達電不僅以HTC品牌躋身國際,身兼微軟Windows Phone及Google Android兩大智慧型手機平台領導廠商的優勢,更讓它左右逢源。只是,面對未來全球智慧型手機進入白熱化競爭的新階段,先行者宏達電是否能持續站在浪頭上?它的機會與挑戰又在哪裡?

 

「未來10年,所有的手機都將是智慧型手機!」這是2009年11月,微軟執行長鮑莫爾(Steve Ballmer)訪台並出席宏達電新款Windows平台智慧型手機HTC HD2發表會時的預言。

很多人還記得,26年前推出的第一支手提式行動電話,厚重如磚頭,只能做最簡單的通話;然而隨著無線網路時代來臨,現代人的手機也越來越「進化」,使用者一機在手,順著指尖輕輕滑動,就可以攝影、聽音樂、玩遊戲、收發電子郵件、處理公文,並享受高速行動上網與衛星導航等服務,教人不上癮也難。

以代工掌上型電腦(PDA)起家的宏達電,4年前才轉型發展自有品牌HTC智慧型手機,2008年的總出貨量已超過1,200萬台,雖然只佔全球智慧型手機市場約7.5%,卻是台灣手機自創品牌的第一名,也是2009年台灣「10大國際品牌」第4名,品牌價值達新台幣389億元。

Touch 與iPhone奇遇記

12年前,剛剛起步的宏達電,只是間座落在桃園龜山鄉稻田裡的小廠,儘管出身美商迪吉多公司的3人團隊擁有超高技術,卻因找不到客戶而瀕臨斷炊。在其他股東紛紛抽腿離去時,只有王永慶之女王雪紅(現為宏達電董事長)仍堅定支持。

在王雪紅引介下,宏達電與微軟合作生產掌上型電腦,之後更躍升全球PDA最大代工廠,也讓王雪紅被2005年美國商業週刊選為最具眼光的25位「亞洲之星」之一。這「千里馬」與「伯樂」的故事,在業界流傳至今。

宏達電的兩位靈魂人物:創辦人卓火土與現任總經理周永明,藉著微軟的招牌、PDA紮實的根基,並看準「無線通訊」的潛力無窮,於是逐步朝向智慧型手機發展。

2006年,宏達電以代工身分轉型自創品牌,旗下第一支採用全螢幕觸控式面板的阿福機(HTC Touch),上市後不到半年即熱賣上百萬支,之後的鑽石機(Touch Diamond)、全球首支採用Google Android平台的手機T-Mobile G1,也都創下全球前10名的銷量,亮麗表現讓業界為之驚嘆。

回顧2007年阿福機推出的曲折驚奇,宏達電行銷長王景弘迄今難忘:阿福機擁有Touch FLO專利技術,使用者可以用手指在螢幕上滑動來控制捲軸,而且觸感敏銳,號稱能「分辨出是男生的指甲還是女生的指甲」。這項革命性操作技術本來是宏達電的最大驕傲,沒想到就在正式推出前,在地球的另一端,美國蘋果電腦卻同時發表了同屬觸控式螢幕、造型和功能卻比Touch還酷炫的iPhone,讓王景弘的心情一下子down到谷底。

「雙方絕不可能互相抄襲,因為這個構想是原創性的;只能說──英雄所見略同!」王景弘表示,HTC的品牌知名度不敵蘋果,雖然阿福機比iPhone早幾星期上市,卻沒能引起媒體青睞,所幸在歐洲、亞洲一戰成名,讓HTC品牌順利地打入歐洲市場。

設計始終來自人性

「我們的目標只有一個──設計出一款操作非常簡單的手機。」帶領宏達電「魔法實驗室」團隊的王景弘談到阿福機的研發緣由,「手機功能越來越複雜,消費者卻搞不清楚也不會使用。」宏達電一開始也朝重新排列選單、減少選單層次,或是修改原來的選項圖示等方向改善,但在歷經一連串的失敗後,他們發現,重點應該是完全回歸到「0」,也就是設計出連嬰兒和阿嬤都能操作的手機。

「以手指觸控,直接在螢幕上翻轉選單的操作介面,就是最自然、根本不需要學習的操作方式。」雖然阿福機的啼聲初試被iPhone光芒掩蓋,但也因搭上了iPhone的順風車,讓知名度不高的宏達電得到歐美媒體矚目,並成為帶動全球觸控式面板手機潮流的領航者之一。

「我們所開發的手機,都是旗艦型手機!」王景弘強調,宏達電的設計代工方式與一般ODM台商不同,他們不等待客戶的需求告知、不抄襲、不跟隨,也不去拆看競爭對手的產品;「魔法實驗室」團隊只要聽聞任何關於手機的新應用,即主動組成專案,並為客戶研發具有原創性的商品,例如美國大廠RIM所推出的「黑莓機」,可以同時收發、觀看10封郵件的功能,就是宏達電為客戶提出的構想。

因為智慧型手機價格較高(約為一般手機的5倍),一向屬於利基市場,目前多以和各國電信業者合作並搭售門號的方式進行銷售,而為了維持原創的自主性,宏達電在設計新手機時並不事先告知,客戶必須等到產品出廠前4個月才能看得到產品,並與宏達電討論產品的顏色、logo置放處等細節,表現出對宏達電的十足信任感。

創新DNA

「行動通訊的發展還在快速演變中,我們的腳步也必須快速調整,今天的HTC與去年的HTC,從營業目標、營運方式都可能改頭換面,讓人認不出來!」王景弘表示,未來的智慧型手機是什麼型態?還能發展出哪些變貌?附加哪些功能?這是宏達人會努力去追尋、解答的。

以挑戰成規著稱的宏達電,一開始就捨棄當時主流的Palm OS系統,而選擇微軟為平台,迄今仍是微軟平台的最主要智慧型手機品牌;而早年宏達電是多普達(Dopod)的代工廠,之後卻反向併購多普達(不含中國部分)且發展自有品牌;2007年成功開發出Touch FLO專利技術;2008年則結合3D與Touch FLO,打造出有著高速寬頻連網速度與內建搭載GPS及Google Map的鑽石機;接著推出全球第一支採用Google開放性手機軟體Android平台的智慧型手機;2009年再推出採用Sense新介面的HTC Hero「英雄機」,更貼合個人化需求。

「很多企業都口口聲聲強調『創新』,但限於技術,只能在製程、商品上作有限的改良;而『創新』卻是宏達電的DNA,宏達人永遠不滿足於現狀。」發展自有品牌前,宏達電為全球各品牌大廠代工智慧型手機,也正是大賺錢的階段,但為了堅持「原創性」,宏達電選擇走向品牌之路。

「宏達電尚未成立品牌前,就已經有許多死忠的fans了。」王景弘透露,早年許多消費者知道宏達電在為法國、德國電信業者Orange、T-Mobile代工,就上網查出HTC代工新手機發表的時間,並向兩家電信業者指名購買;所以當掛著「HTC」自有品牌的阿福機推出時,Orange及T-Mobile主動要求經銷權,並在店面張貼大型海報廣為宣傳。

台灣的名牌

推出HTC品牌前,宏達電曾經邊做邊學、實驗性地發展被市場定位為二線品牌的Qtek品牌,但在英國大型電信業者的支持下,HTC品牌價值日增,宏達決定放棄Qtek並全力經營HTC品牌。儘管初期不被看好,甚至拿它與明基電通併購西門子,企圖從代工轉向品牌卻慘遭滑鐵盧的案例相提並論,但宏達電仍勇往直前。

「我們重視的,不是品牌辨識度或知名度,而是品牌價值( Brand Value)。」2009年6月HTC在倫敦發表新款「英雄機」時,原本只預定120個記者席位,沒想到會場擠進160多家媒體,相較於3年前在同一場地發表產品時只有十幾位媒體前來,證明了HTC正逐步建立自己的品牌價值。

執行長周永明也認為,一般企業都強調「市佔率」,急著把量衝大,卻失去了企業的定位與價值;而宏達電子不刻意追求市佔率,無論是OEMODM代工模式或是經營品牌市場,宏達的目標都是一樣的,就是創造自己的核心價值。

「HTC的新核心價值,是『Quietly Brilliant)』(沉靜的才華;每位宏達人都不會喧嘩張揚自己的成就,而是認真地把事情做對、做好。」藉由一次又一次的產品發表會,一篇又一篇各國主流媒體的報導,宏達人期待HTC登上國際舞台的夢想越接近,越能激勵他們發揮潛力。

「我們不僅想發展出『全球品牌』,更想成為『全球名牌』,一個能代表台灣的名牌。」王景弘談到品牌與名牌的差異:GM(通用汽車)旗下有別克、凱迪拉克、紳寶、歐寶等多款汽車,都是代表美國汽車的品牌,但它們的價值和BMW(德國寶馬)還是有落差的。而台灣雖然有許多「品牌」,但誰是引領全球風潮的「名牌」?卻很難說得出來。宏達電期許自己的,就是成為「台灣的BMW」。

戰國時代來臨

前有名牌夢驅策HTC勇往直前,但後面的強勢追兵卻也不容小覷。

多位業界分析師指出,宏達電當初切入時,智慧型手機市場宛如未開發的新藍海,宏達電才能以初生之犢快速崛起,並在最短時間內躋身台灣10大國際品牌。但如今智慧型手機已成為全球所有資訊及通信大廠的兵家必爭之地,除了已在這個領域領先的Nokia、蘋果和RIM外,包括韓國的三星、金星,台灣的宏痋A甚至以低價「山寨機」小廠為主要合作伙伴的IC設計龍頭聯發科,都有意跟進、搶食大餅。這些「大白鯊」挾帶龐大的集團能量,會不會危及宏達電的利基優勢?各界都在觀望。

對於未來的競爭態勢了然於心的王景弘並不多談,他只希望一步步抓緊趨勢,把事情做對、把產品做好,讓宏達電成為每一位消費者最貼心的「perfect match」,讓每一次的發表會都有驚喜,這就是對外界疑慮最好的交代了。

HTC(宏達電)簡介 成立日期  1997年5月15日
資本額 新台幣79.6億元
總營收  2008年為新台幣1,523.5億元
主要營業項目  設計行銷多功能之智慧型手機 (Windows Phone 與 Android 兩平台)
企業排名
2008年獲頒台灣第六屆企業獎:最佳創新經營及最佳國際成就獎
中華民國品質協會企業類品質團體獎二星獎、美國「商業週刊」
「2008全球科技一百強」第10名
全球據點  總部台灣;歐洲、美國、亞洲、日本等世界營運據點。
專利數目  1997年5月15日
成立日期  至2008年5月底,專利數4300多件
市場佔有率  2008年全球智慧型手機市佔率約7.5%
全球員工人數  8,755人

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近期文章

EN

HTC: Putting the "Smart" into Smartphone

Yang Ling-yuan /photos courtesy of courtesy of HTC /tr. by Phil Newell

The year 2009 was a turbulent one for Taiwan's leading maker of smartphones, HTC. In early August, the company finally ceded its title as "stock price king" to Mediatek, which single-handedly sparked the "knock-off phone" fad in China. However, thanks to the hot sales of its own brand name HTC HD2 in Europe, where demand outstripped supply, the company was able to score a victory over its rival.


HTC is not only making its presence felt internationally through its own brand name, the fact that it produces phones for both Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Google's Android, the two major mobile device platforms, means that it can reap rewards from both sides. However, as worldwide competition in the smartphone market hits the white-hot stage, can the vanguard firm HTC keep riding the crest of the wave? Where are its opportunities and challenges?

"Within 10 years, all cell phones will be smartphones! " This was the prognostication made by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, when he attended the unveiling ceremony of HTC's Windows platform smart cell phone HD2 in November of 2009.

A lot of people probably remember the first hand-portable phones that came out 26 years ago-they were about as convenient as carrying around a brick, and could do no more than make simple phone calls. But with the arrival of the era of wireless Internet, cell phones have rapidly evolved. Today, with a cell phone in hand, users can-with the soft, agile touch of a fingertip-take photos, listen to music, play games, send and receive emails, process documents, and enjoy high-speed Internet connections and even satellite navigation... it's addictive!

HTC, which got its start doing OEM production of personal digital assistants (PDAs), only turned to developing its own brand of smartphones four years ago. By 2008 production had surpassed 12 million units, accounting for 7.5% of the global market and putting HTC at the top of the list of Taiwan's homegrown smartphone brands. In 2009, the company ranked fourth among Taiwan's top 10 international brand names, and the brand value reached NT$38.9 billion.

Touch vs. iPhone

Twelve years ago, HTC was just starting out as a small factory amidst the rice fields of Guishan Township in Taoyuan County. Although the three-man team that founded the company had worked together at the US firm Digital and had very advanced technology in their hands, they nearly went bust because of difficulty finding customers. As investors pulled out one after the other, only Cher Wang, daughter of Wang Yung-ching (the founder of Formosa Plastics) and now chairwoman of HTC, stayed the course.

Thanks to Wang's efforts, HTC began producing palm-top computers with Microsoft, and eventually became the world's top OEM maker of PDAs, while Wang was named one of the 25 most far-sighted stars in Asia for 2005 by the US magazine Business Week.

The two people who make up the soul of HTC-founder H.T. Cho and CEO Peter Chou-accurately set their sights on the limitless potential of wireless communications, and, exploiting the appeal of the Microsoft name and HTC's firm foundation in PDAs, began to move step by step toward development of smartphones.

In 2006, HTC turned from OEM to producing under its own label. The first item under its flag, the HTC Touch, which offered full-screen touch control, sold more than 1 million units in less than half a year. Then followed the Touch Diamond and the T-Mobile G1, the first cell phone in the world to adopt the Google Android platform. Both finished in the top 10 for sales volume worldwide, a brilliant performance that left others in the industry astounded.

The 2007 launch of the HTC Touch generated one unwelcome surprise, as HTC chief marketing officer John C. Wang still can't forget even today: The phone utilized patented Touch FLO technology, allowing users to scroll by running a fingertip across the screen, with sensitivity so acute that it was said to be able to "distinguish between a man's fingernail and a woman's fingernail." This revolutionary operating technology was HTC's pride and joy, so it was quite a shock when, just before release, on the other side of the globe Apple of the US announced it was coming out with the iPhone, which had not only a contact-sensitive screen but a much hipper design and cooler functions than the Touch. This sent Wang's mood plummeting.

"There's no possibility that either side took anything from the other, because the concept was completely original and innovative. I guess all you can say is, great minds think alike!" Wang says that because HTC could not compete with Apple in name recognition, despite hitting the market a few weeks before the iPhone the Touch didn't get nearly as much media attention. Fortunately, it did quite well in European and Asian markets, allowing HTC to establish its corporate identity in both regions. Success in the European market is especially significant for Taiwanese firms.

People-centric design

"We have always had only one goal-to design a cell phone that is incredibly easy to operate," says Wang, who also heads up HTC's "MAGIC Labs" team. Describing the thinking that lay behind the R&D of the Touch, he recalls that "cell phones were getting more and more complicated in terms of their functions, so that users were getting confused and were unable to use them properly." At first, HTC headed in the direction of new ways of arranging menus and reducing the levels of choices, or of changing the icons and appearance, but after a series of failures they discovered that they would have to "start from zero," which meant designing a phone that even a small child or a granny could operate.

"The most natural solution was to use an interface that people could operate with the touch of a finger, directly turning through menus right there on the screen." Although the Touch's debut was somewhat obscured by the glitter of the iPhone, the hitherto unknown HTC was still able to "draft" behind the Apple fad and draw attention from the media in the US and Europe, becoming recognized as one of the trailblazers in the global trend toward cell phones with touch panels.

Because the price of smartphones is about five times higher than that of ordinary phones with some features (like music or photo functions), they have always been considered a niche market. At present smartphone makers like HTC mostly sell phones through cooperative agreements with telecom firms in various countries.

Wang emphasizes that HTC, which not only has its own brand but designs and manufactures phones for other labels, has a very different model for its original design manufacturing than your typical Taiwanese ODM firm. They don't sit around waiting for customers to bring them demands, they don't poach ideas from others, they don't follow the crowd, and they don't reverse-engineer rivals' products. MAGIC Labs needs only to hear about some new application for cell phones and they organize a task force with the specific mission of coming up with an innovative product for clients. For example, the idea for the function allowing simultaneous reading, receiving, or sending of up to 10 emails at a time on a "Blackberry" produced by the US giant RIM was proposed to this client by HTC. Wang concludes, "All of the cell phones that we develop are flagship phones!"

In order to maintain creative autonomy, HTC makes no prior announcements when it designs new phones, and customers must wait until four months before the new product comes off the factory line before they can see the samples, when they can then discuss with HTC such details as colors or placement of logos. This suggests that they have a very high level of trust in HTC.

Creativity is our DNA

"Mobile communication is still in the midst of very rapid evolution, and we have to be very fast on our feet. In many ways, including operational objectives and operating models, this year's HTC may be so different from last year's HTC that it is unrecognizable!" relates Wang. What will be the nature of future smartphones? What new looks will be developed? What functions will be added? The people at HTC are constantly exploring and answering such questions.

HTC has made derring-do the norm since the very beginning, when they eschewed the mainstream Palm OS (operating system) in favor of Microsoft, and even today they remain the most important maker of smartphones still using the Microsoft platform. Also, whereas early on HTC was the OEM manufacturer for Dopod, it turned around and acquired Dopod (excluding its China division) and began developing its own brand. In 2007 they came up with the patented Touch FLO technology; in 2008 they combined 3D and Touch FLO to make the Touch Diamond, with high-speed broadband capability and embedded GPS and Google Maps; next they came out with the first smartphone in the world to adopt Google's open-source Android platform; and in 2009 they introduced the HTC Hero with the new Sense interface, conforming more closely to the demand for ever more individualization.

"A lot of firms are always talking about 'innovation,' but because of technological limitations they can only make minor improvements in the manufacturing process or the products. But at HTC innovation is our DNA, and the people here are never satisfied with the status quo." Before developing its own label, HTC was making a fortune doing OEM production of smartphones for various major brands worldwide, but decided to pursue the path of independent branding because of this dedication to innovation.

John C. Wang relates that "even before HTC came out with its own brand name, it already had a lot of fans." Many consumers were aware very early on that HTC was doing outsourced work for the French and German telecom firms Orange and T-Mobile, and would go online to find out when HTC was coming out with a new model, and then specify by name to the telecom firms that they wanted to buy the HTC product. That is why when the Touch carrying the HTC brand name on its face first came out, Orange and T-Mobile took the initiative to seek the right to sell the phones, and put up big posters in their outlets advertising the brand.

Taiwan's world beater

CEO Peter Chou adds that many firms overemphasize market share, and in their rush to expand lose corporate reputation and value. But HTC has never consciously pursued market share, and, regardless of whether following the OEM/ODM model or operating its own brand, has always had a similar goal: to realize its own core value.

"HTC's present core value is 'quietly brilliant.' The people who work here don't go around blowing their own horns, but pay attention to doing things well, to doing them with attention to detail." Through one product release after another, and one report after another in the world's mainstream media, the dream shared by company employees of bringing HTC to the global stage has come ever closer, and their potential has been ever more stimulated and brought into play.

"We not only want to develop a brand name that is known around the world, our real ambition is to become a 'global brand,' a brand name that can represent Taiwan." What's the difference? John C. Wang explains that the US auto firm General Motors has many well-known brand names, such as Buick, Cadillac, and so on. But there is still a big gap between their brand value and that of Germany's BMW. Similarly, while Taiwan has many brand names, which can claim to be a "global brand" that sets the international standard? That's a lot harder. What HTC expects of itself is to become "the BMW of Taiwan."

Ahead of it, the vision of becoming a global brand draws HTC boldly forward, but you shouldn't overlook the impetus coming from the people doing the work behind the scenes.

Many industry analysts opine that when HTC first entered the fray, the market for smartphones was virgin territory, which is the main reason why HTC was able to grow so quickly and become one of Taiwan's top 10 international brand names in such a short time. But these days all the world's information and telecom companies are fighting for a share of the smart cell phone market. Not only the leaders in the field like Nokia, Apple, and RIM, but also Samsung and LG of Korea, Acer of Taiwan, and even Mediatek (the IC design leader that mainly works with low-priced "knock-off phone" factories), are all aiming to stake their claims. Will the presence of all these "great white sharks" in the water threaten HTC's profitability? Everyone is following the action closely.

Wang clearly knows what HTC's future posture will be, but he isn't saying much right now. He only hopes that they can stay in step with the trends as they go, handle things properly, and make their products the best they possibly can, so that HTC will become every consumer's "perfect match" and every new product release will be astonishing. This is the best possible response they can give to outsiders who are skeptical about their prospects.

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