HTC to launch smartphones that display local fonts in Myanmar

Telecom Lead Asia: HTC has teamed up with a distributor and a software developer in Myanmar to customize Google’s Android operating system to display local fonts and sport a dedicated Myanmar language onscreen keyboard.

Peter Chou, CEO of HTC Corp

Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, told Reuters that until now Myanmarese users of mobile phones and computers must install fonts in their own language, a process that is cumbersome, often invalidates the device’s warranty and has, he says, slowed innovation and the embrace of technology.

“You don’t have to spend two months to learn how to type it. You just type it. We want to give people here a computing device they don’t have to learn. They just try it, they just use it, they just get it,” Chou said.

Myanmar IT experts say that while the country’s alphabet is no more complex than some other Asian scripts, a failure to agree how to apply an international standard for language symbols called Unicode to existing versions of the computer font has made it difficult to bake the language into software. As a result, web pages and apps will often be unreadable.

Myanmar has one of the lowest mobile penetration rates in the world, with only 3 percent of the population owning a phone in 2011, according to the World Bank. In neighboring Bangladesh, 56 percent of people have a mobile phone.

Soe Ngwe Ya, general manager of KMD, HTC’s distribution partner for the new phones, said: “In order to install such fonts on mobile devices users must first root the phone, effectively bypassing the manufacturer’s controls on customizing the phone’s operating system. That often invalidates any warranty. It’s a major issue.”

Samsung has at least two distributors for its handsets and its advertisements are visible around the capital. KMD will act as HTC’s distributor, open a flagship store and service HTC users.

HTC hopes it can claw back some ground from its biggest competitor in Android phones, Samsung Electronics, which has established a first mover advantage in Myanmar.

HTC’s fourth-quarter operating income was NT$600 million ($21 million). Net income was NT$1 billion, the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based company said in a statement yesterday. That’s the lowest since 2004 and less than the NT$10.9 billion it posted a year earlier, Bloomberg reported.

Revenue dropped 41 percent to NT$60 billion, compared with the NT$60.5 billion average of 23 analyst estimates. HTC on Oct. 26 forecast sales of about NT$60 billion, the lowest in 11 quarters.

HTC’s share of the global smartphone market dropped to 4.6 percent in the third quarter from 10.3 percent a year earlier as Samsung’s lead widened, according to Bloomberg. HTC’s share of the U.S. handset market fell to 3.6 percent from 11.6 percent, according to the data.

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