updated 08:25 pm EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
Microsoft claims HTC 'too inexperienced' with tablets, 'sales too low'
HTC is said to be frozen out of the introductory phase of Microsoft's forthcoming Windows RT software. Sources familiar with interactions between the two companies tell Bloomberg that Microsoft has locked HTC out from making any tablet devices featuring Windows 8, though the manufacturer could be included in a later wave of device releases next year. Microsoft has maintained tight control over the number of ARM-based devices it is supporting at launch, and the HTC denial is said to be based in part on a disagreement between the two companies on whether or not a proposed HTC device's interface could be customized.
HTC is said to have proposed a Windows 8 tablet with a customized home screen designed by HTC. The manufacturer may have been looking to duplicate the custom home screen found on some of its Android-powered offerings, possibly in a manner similar to HTC's Sense interface. Microsoft reportedly refused HTC's request. Further, Microsoft decided that HTC's sales volume and experience in making tablets were "insufficient" to count the manufacturer among the vendors it would support for the first round of ARM-based devices featuring Windows.
Microsoft has taken a few unusual steps in the run-up to the Windows 8 debut, including allowing ARM chip makers to choose a major and minor partner to manufacture devices. The company has also mandated that ARM-based Windows 8 tablets feature Microsoft's Secure Boot feature, which prevents unsigned operating systems, such as Linux, from running on the hardware. Moves such as these are thought to be part of Microsoft's effort to tightly control quality on devices featuring Windows, as the new operating system will face an uphill battle against both Apple and Android.
The HTC freeze out will almost certainly prove a blow to the Taiwanese company, which has seen market share for its devices eroded in light of the successes of Apple and Samsung. Microsoft is rumored to be leaning toward widening the number of manufacturers it will support for a second wave of devices due out in 2013, which could represent another opening for HTC.