Google has reportedly turned to HTC to develop its next Nexus tablet, the 9-inch Nexus 9. According to an article Monday in The Wall Street Journal, HTC engineers have been visiting Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California, "in recent months."
If true, the report is noteworthy because HTC currently focuses largely on smartphones and accessories. Its last foray into the tablet market ended in disappointment: The Android-based HTC Flyer was released in spring 2011 and was discontinued in December that same year.
Google has partnered with a variety of companies on its Nexus line. It worked with Asus to develop the Nexus 7, which was released in July 2012. The Nexus 10, manufactured by Samsung, came out in the fall of 2012.
Code Name ‘Volantis’?
The tablet market is shifting toward larger-screen devices as sales of large-screen smartphones, "phablets," have picked up steam. A Sept. 3 report from IDC noted: "While phablets are a relatively new category of device, first picking up volume in 2012, the pressure that the category has placed on the tablet market has already been clearly observed as the growth of smaller, 7 inch tablets has begun to slow. IDC expects more consumers to shift back toward larger-sized tablets with their next purchase."
Worldwide tablet sales passed 195 million in 2013, according to a report from Gartner. Android devices -- which include the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 -- last year took the lead in the tablet market, grabbing a 62 percent share. Gartner reported that, as of February 2014, the leading tablet vendors were Apple (36 percent market share), Samsung (19.1 percent), Asus (5.6 percent), Amazon (4.8 percent) and Lenovo (3.3 percent).
Reportedly set for release in October, the Nexus 9 would likely also feature the latest version of Google's Android operating system. The new device has been code-named Volantis, according to rumors in the technology news world. The Web site Evleaks has also reported that HTC is developing two other tablets: the T7 and the T12.
Seeking New Revenue Streams
HTC's disappointing sales of its previous tablet were blamed more on the version of Android it ran, Honeycomb, than on the device itself. However, the company has not revisited the tablet market since it discontinued the Flyer.
The tablet market was still in its early stages in 2011, when many consumers were uncertain of the need for such devices. Even now, the market continues to shift as more new devices hit stores.
"Clearly, mobile computing is a space where consumers are still trying to figure out what mix of devices and screen sizes will suit them best," noted Tom Mainelli, program vice president for Devices and Displays at IDC. "What works well today could very well shift tomorrow as phones gain larger screens, tablets become more powerful replacements for PCs, and even smart-watch screens join the fray."
The Taiwan-based HTC is most likely eager to develop a new revenue stream as it struggles to compete in a smartphone market dominated by much larger players like Apple and Samsung.