Connect the Dots

One year ago, HTC was flying high:

HTC reports that net profits blasted up to $504 million, a 197 percent increase from the previous year. Revenues were in the $3.5 billion range and the company shipped 9.7 million handsets, a 192 percent increase over Q1 of last year.

One month later, HTC announced support for open bootloaders:

“There has been overwhelmingly customer feedback that people want access to open bootloaders on HTC phones. I want you to know that we’ve listened. Today, I’m confirming we will no longer be locking the bootloaders on our devices. Thanks for your passion, support and patience,” Peter Chou, CEO of HTC.

I think it’s safe to assume that the “customers” and “people” who wanted access to open bootloaders did not include the executives at major mobile carriers.

Flash forward to one month ago. HTC is no longer flying so high:

Net income before tax in Q1 2012 was NT$5,551 million (approximately $180 million), while net income after tax came in at NT$4,464 million (roughly $151 million). That’s a staggering 70 percent decline compared to net profits the company booked in the same period last year.

As Horace Dediu so ably documents, HTC is not alone in seeing its handset profits dwindle. The difference between HTC and companies like Nokia, RIM, LG, and Sony is that, as of a year ago, HTC was still seeing its share of the industry’s profits rise. The others have, since 2007, mostly seen their share of the industry’s profits fall.

Which brings us to today, and HTC’s new flagship phone, the One X on AT&T:

Yesterday, MoDaCo noticed that the bootloader on the AT&T version of the HTC One X was locked and that HTC’s online tool for unlocking it didn’t work. We reached out to HTC on the matter, it it looks as though the smartphone will not be participating in HTC’s bootloader unlocking program. […]

It seems pretty clear that AT&T is behind the “restrictions” here.

I’d say it seems pretty clear HTC is now listening to a different set of “customers”.