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Looking good, feeling good.


Jewellery is close to a girls heart. Neck, ears, fingers. The great thing about jewellery is that it doesn’t do anything. It just makes you look good and that makes you feel good.

Male jewellery is different. Not talking rings and bracelets, they too bling. Male jewellery has to do something. A watch, camera or of course mobile phone. The more it does the better. No-one who works in The City needs a Brietling Emergency. A camera has to have the most megapixels and a posh name. Despite the attempts of Vertu and some of the strangest diamond-encrusted  phones, no phone has yet pulled off the watch manufacturers trick of being posh just by being posh. So it’s left to piling in the features.

If Diamonds are a girl’s best friend the HTC Diamond is a blokes’. The new Diamond is both great to hold and works well. Being Windows mobile it’s feature packed and Microsoft having given up on trying to enforce a Today screen makes it slicker.

The HTC Dream is the Android phone; it’s a worry for Microsoft. Up until now this male-jewellery manufacturer has led the way for Windows Mobile. The Motorola and Sony Ericsson phones which run Windows Mobile are made in conjunction with HTC. All of the operator branded Windows Mobile phones are HTC. Indeed the only major to not use HTC for its Windows Mobile phones is Samsung. If you were feeling cruel you might say that Microsoft only has the one customer: HTC. If you only had one customer and they started experimenting with a different supplier you might get nervous.

If you were as rich as Microsoft you might look to acquire them rather than lose the market.

If you were as rich as Google you might look to stop this by putting in a bid of your own.

I’ve never thought that the mobile OS business made sense. You can’t charge enough to make money for all the development work that has to go in. The people who should own OSes are phone manufacturers. Microsoft or Google buying HTC is the other way around but ends up in the same place.

There were  rumours  that HTC was in ‘merger’ talks. The site which reported it jumped to the conclusion that it was Sony Ericsson doing the buying on the back of the X1, but that’s crazy. Sony Ericsson doesn’t often buy companies, it grows its own technology. The reason for the conclusion was that Elektroniktidningen is a Swedish title, and everyone always thinks that the people close to home are the prime suspects. If it has been a French magazine the conclusion would have been Sagem, and Korean magazine Samsung.

There is no other phone manufacturer that Microsoft would want, and Google has good reason to stop them. The prospect of a bidding war between the two is delicious. The victor would see an immediate benefit in their share price because all the people wearing Brietlings and trading shares know the products.

Then they would have the buyers remorse as they found that they had to deal with the mobile ecosystem, operators and the general low margins of the handset industry. But Microsoft has learnt that lesson with Xbox.

A software led mobile phone company would be interesting. Especially if that led to more innovation with the user interface. The phone equivalent of jewellery is eye-candy. The special effects as you rotate the phone, flip the page or hysteresis as you scroll. Something the iPhone has down pat. Indeed you might already argue that Apple is a software company, Jobs said as much at the original iPhone launch. The problem with the HTC Diamond is that it, like a supermodel wearing too much jewellery, over does it with a bad mix of bling. The multiple zooms and transitions are very clever but show that you can have too much eye candy. And just like the rings and bracelets, the job of eye candy isn’t to do anything but to look good and so make you feel good.

Cat Keynes publishes her thoughts on the mobile phone industry every Sunday at www.catkeynes.com you can read the column  the previous Friday by subscribing here.


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