Is Microsoft's most important Taiwanese partner about to switch teams? High Tech Computer (HTC) is the world's No. 1 maker of smart phones using the Windows operating system, and for years Microsoft engineers have worked closely with their HTC counterparts. The Taiwanese company, which has its U.S. office in Bellevue, Washington, just a few miles away from Microsoft's HQ, makes 80% of the world's Windows-driven smart phones to develop. But according to a report by electronics research firm THT Research, HTC is starting to work with Microsoft's arch-rival, Google. "High Tech Computer (HTC) landed orders from Google for handsets with shipments to start at the end of 2007," THT reports, "and may reach 1M units as it hit global market in 2008."
Maggie Cheng, a spokeswoman for HTC, would not comment on the report. And some to-be-sures are in order. THT doesn't cite a source, and even if the report is true, it's not uncommon for Taiwanese ODMs to do work for several competing customers. Quanta makes computers for Dell and HP, for instance, and nobody thinks anything of it. But given Microsoft's long history with HTC - and given the depth of the feud between Microsoft and Google - the possibility that HTC might be doing work for Google probably doesn't cheer people in Redmond. A few days ago I wrote here and here about the new strategy of HTC to pump up its own brand. If this Google report turns out to be true, then HTC CEO Peter Chou is pushing the company's makeover even more aggressively than I thought.