HTC to add digital music to mobiles, will drop infrared

HTC, the world's largest maker of Windows-based mobile phones, will further develop music playing functions in its handsets, and phase out infrared.

High Tech Computer (HTC), the world's largest maker of mobile phones that use Windows Mobile, plans to further develop music playing functions in its handsets in the future, while it will slowly phase out infrared.

The company already offers music functions on most of its phones, since they use a mobile version of Microsoft's Media Player. But going forward, HTC will add more flash memory and other hardware to make its phones increasingly music-friendly, said Peter Chou, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of HTC, in a group interview.

The strategy meshes with Microsoft's plan to launch the Zune digital music player and challenge Apple Computer in the growing digital music market. Up to now, Microsoft has focused on digital music on the PC and home media systems, as well as a few mobile phone ventures, such as one with Verizon Wireless announced earlier this year.

The companies teamed up to offer songs to mobiles or PCs from Verizon's V Cast music service, allowing users to transfer any MP3 or WMA (Windows Media Audio) song stored on their PC to their handset. The music is copy-protected using Microsoft DRM (digital rights management) technology.

But the success of the iPod and its growth into a force in the digital music business, with the iTunes online music store and other features, has prompted Microsoft and other companies to move faster in developing software and hardware for the market. Handheld digital music players, and music mobile phones are currently the main battlefield for companies.

HTC is also removing some functions from its mobiles. The company has already phased infrared out of some of its latest mobile phones, and expects to continue to remove the function since it is no longer a necessity, said Chou.

The company, which has been a longtime partner of Microsoft in the mobile business, could also expand to using the Symbian OS. The company said it would only use Symbian if it sees value in doing so, for example, if operators placed orders with it for phones using the Symbian OS.

"We're not limited. We're not Microsoft, we can do anything," Chou said.

Currently, however, the company sees little value in offering Symbian-based phones, since there is already brisk competition among handset makers offering the OS on their mobiles.

HTC forecasts it will sell about 10 million mobile phones this year, up from 7 million [M] last year. The majority of its handsets are smart phones, or handsets that combine the function of a PDA (personal digital assistant) and a mobile phone.

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