HTC is still in disarray. After staff departures, a troubled "Facebook phone" launch with the First, and dwindling revenue and profits, the company has turned to Robert Downey Jr. in a new ad campaign to help boost its brand and prospects. At the center of HTC's rise and fall is the company's CEO: Peter Chou. In a profile of Chou, who is now in his 10th year as CEO, Reuters has interviewed a dozen former and current HTC executives to explore his leadership and vision for the company's turnaround.
Chou is depicted as a quick decision-maker with an attention to detail, tendencies that sources previously told The Verge were a roadblock for the company. Both traits have clearly helped HTC in the smartphone market, allowing it to change directions on products quickly or create a concept for a new device in its range. Reuters tells of an offsite meeting two years ago where Chou sketched his plans for the design, price, and launch date of the Sensation XL just three months before its launch. Chou also allegedly inspected trays of phones at his desk, checking the balance, finish of the edges, and joints with what's described as an obsessive attention to detail.
This quick thinking and perfectionism let HTC respond well to market changes initially, but the competition has caught up. "It used to be a strength, and now is becoming a weak point as they don't have a clear direction going forward," says one unnamed HTC source. HTC faces stiff competition from Samsung, a company that dominates Android devices and builds a lot of the components used in its own and competitor's smartphones.
Will Chou follow through on his promise and resign?
All the attention to detail appears to have been mixed in with a management style where Chou openly criticizes management decisions and overrides them with little discussion. Some executives interviewed by Reuters claim this particular power struggle, following the hiring of new foreign executives, led to morale problems and confusion over responsibility. Many of the foreign hires are no longer working at HTC, and most operations, except design, are being run from Taipei.
Chou now faces the challenge of ensuring HTC's marketing can keep up with the devices the company designs, while remaining relevant worldwide. Robert Downey Jr. might just help with that, but if HTC is unable to turn its fortunes around with a One retail success then Chou might be forced to end his 10-year run and follow through on his private promise to resign. However, despite employees blaming Chou for HTC's issues, Reuters says the company doesn't have a clear successor available.