HTC bids on mobile ads

Contact: Jarrett Streebin

In the shadow cast by Apple’s iPhone 4 release, HTC’s purchase of Paris-based Abaxiaon Monday went largely unnoticed. Granted, it was a small deal, costing HTC just $13m. But it has the potential to be a big deal, since it bolsters HTC’s offering in the emerging mobile advertising market.

Abaxia, which has worked with HTC since 2001, offers a cross-platform UI for idle screens. HTC already has a UI called the HTC Sense that sits on top of Google’s Android OS. The Taiwanese device vendor has incorporated its own custom applications and some MDM capabilities into Sense. While similar, Abaxia offers a platform for pushing mobile advertising to idle screens. This acquisition provides HTC a modest entry into an area that Apple has already staked out with its iAd product.

Although HTC entered the North American and European markets as a white-label device for carriers, its advanced devices and early support for Android have boosted the value of its brand. Customers have been snapping up the phones, with both Verizon and Sprint reporting they have sold out of some HTC devices. The Droid Incredible and EVO 4G are the strongest competition to Apple’s iPhone 4, which means they are also comparable ad delivery platforms. Now that HTC has proved it can compete with Apple devices, it’s time to take on Apple’s iAd.