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Good Touch for a small phone

Outside the mobile industry few have heard of HTC (High Tech Computer), but the Taiwanese smartphone firm stepped out of white label handset anonymity on Tuesday with the unveiling of the Touch phone.

The HTC Touch, based on Windows Mobile 6, is both small and stylish and offers what the firm hopes is an intuitive touch screen user interface. Although touch screen technology is nothing new, it is this device’s USP and obvious comparisons will be drawn between the Touch and Apple’s forthcoming iPhone.

Apple may have shaken up the market, but with the US version of the iPhone not out until the end of the month and a European version not out until year end, many rivals are hoping to steal a lead on the Californian company.

As HTC’s CMO, John Wang, pointed out, the HTC Touch is available in the UK now and will be available across Europe before the week is out. A North and South American launch is expected in the second half.

Both Orange and T-Mobile will be offering subscribers across Europe the opportunity to get their hands on the device that HTC and long time partner Microsoft clearly hope will draw consumers’ lusty gaze away from the imminent arrival of the iPhone.

The Touch will retail for Eur449 but it is anticipated that operator partners will offer “aggressively priced” bundles with subsidised handsets.

Orange is taking an interesting step with the Touch. The carrier’s VP of global operations, Yves Maitre, was on hand to announce that this would be the first time the France Telecom-owner operator would be launching with an HTC device not branded under the operator’s own SVP label. “It’s fantastic to see one of your family grow strong enough to launch its own brand,” he said.”

But, the fight for control over on handset branding is as strong as ever, so it is difficult to believe that Maitre’s comments were not made through gritted teeth. Moving away from the comfort zone of offering operator branded devices is a risky strategy, especially for a firm that has used that strategy to build an enviable position as the world’s number one supplier of Windows Mobile devices. Managing operator relations going forward will be a challenge in the highly competitive handset market.

“Our operator strategy is at the forefront of our minds,” Paul Ghent, HTC’s new UK country manager told telecoms.com. “We’ve obviously had a lot of discussion with the operators . We are continuing to support them 100 per cent. We’ve obviously had some concerns expressed by them about the potential and the direction we’re going. We have allayed those fears by proving to them that we are continuing, even with the new model line-ups, to go down the own-branded route as well as pursuing our own brand awareness strategy.”

HTC Touch key features

Dimensions: 99.9mm (L) x 58mm (W) x 13.9mm (T)

Weight: 112g with batteryMemory: 1GB microSD storage card included / 64MB RAM, 128MB ROM

Screen: 2.8” LCD touch screen with backlight, 240 x 320 dots resolution with 65,536 colours

Standby time: Up to 200 / Talk time: Up to 5 hours

Camera: 2.0 megapixel

OS: Windows Mobile 6 Professional with Direct Push Email and HTML email support

Connectivity: GSM/GPRS/EDGE, wifi and Bluetooth 2.0

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