“Disruptive”. Investor-pleasing rhetoric with little substance?

In an interview with the Financial Times this week, HTC CEO Peter Chou talked of the company launching a tablet in the near future. He stated that the product would be disruptive.

Disruptive.

What a nebulous statement that has become. I’m sure it resonates well among the investment community keen to see HTC’s fortunes reenergized, but for folks within the technology space it’s difficult to see the form in which HTC’s tablet disruption will manifest.

Industrial Design: HTC has some pedigree here. The HTC One smartphone is a beautiful piece of industrial design, milled from a single block of aluminium, and widely praised. However, aside from material advancements the form factor of the tablet is unlikely to see any significant change in the short/medium term. It’ll be rectangular won’t it…

Software: Unless HTC plans on launching its own OS, I’m willing to bet any HTC tablet will run a variant of Android OS with an HTC overlay. No disruption here.

Price: Possible but highly unlikely. Aside from the fact that you’d need to be launching a 7inch product at well under £150 to be considered truly disruptive, HTC doesn’t like playing at the very bottom end of the market. Indeed, while its global smartphone share is just 2.6%, its share of smartphone priced over US$500 is 10%. HTC knows its strength is not in entry-level devices; leave this for Samsung and the small Chinese OEMs.

Connectivity: Possible but unlikely. IMHO embedding cellular connectivity within the price of the hardware would be disruptive on a scale worthy of Apple itself. Amazon’s Kindle already bundles 3G access within its 3G hardware models; however users are downloading files measuring in the Kbs on an irregular basis. Tablet users’ usage is measured in the Gb. It’s the sort of usage that mobile carriers could expect +£150 of annual revenue from. Bundling connectivity with the hardware would price the product out of the market instantly.

Hardware: We’re reaching a level in the smartphone and tablet market where a large percentage of processing power simply isn’t being exploited by users or third-party developers. Dropping another core into a piece of hardware isn’t going to cut it anymore. However, supplementary hardware features, such as battery performance, are genuine green-field areas for innovation and disruption. The same is true for screen technology and the first to market with a foldable screen will win my pocket-money. However, it’s difficult to see HTC trumping Samsung on this one.

Services: It’s hard to think of any immediate services that could be classed as disruptive. Seriously, I can’t think of one.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the “rest of the market” rise up and threaten the dominance of Apple and Samsung ads much as the nest man. Indeed, my criticism is not with HTC itself but its (and the media’s) use of grandeur, investor-pleasing statements such as “disruptive” without any form of substance to back it up.

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