Chialin Chang, HTC’s President of Smartphone and Connected Devices Business, made his immediate resignation official last week, which HTC now confirms has prompted the company to merge its smartphone and VR divisions—a move that possibly points to the HTC putting greater focus on VR in the face of the company’s waning smartphone business.

Update (02/24/18)The Verge has confirmed with HTC that it will undergo management reorganization.

“We have recently brought our smartphone and VR businesses under common leadership in each region. Today, we announced a restructure in North America for the HTC smartphone business that will centralize the reporting structure within the region,” HTC told The Verge. “In doing so, there have been some employee reductions to align the businesses and empower the teams to share more resources.”

The report contends that layoffs are hitting US-based staff, allegedly counting between “a few dozen to around 100 people.”

The original article follows below.

Original article (02/14/18): HTC told Engadget that Chang stepped down from his 6-year stint at the company to pursue his “personal career plan,” exactly what that entails, we’re not sure at this time.

According to a report by China-based tech publication YiVian, five general managers, most of whom oversaw VR divisions in the company, will be taking charge of both smartphone and VR business moving forward in their respective regions.

  • Daniel O’Brien, GM of HTC VIVE Americas, is now GM of HTC Americas.
  • Alvin Wang Graylin, GM of HTC VIVE China, is now GM of HTC China.
  • Raymond Pao, VP of HTC VR New Technology, is now GM of North Asia.
  • Paul Brown, GM of HTC VIVE Europe, is now GM of HTC Europe.
  • Chen(陈柏谕), GM of HTC smartphone Taiwan, is now GM of HTC Taiwan.
HTC: Vive Pro is Targeted at Prosumers and Will Be "more expensive" Than Consumer Vive

HTC’s smartphone business has been struggling in face of big names such as Samsung, Apple, and the growing Chinese brand Huawei, but if the report holds true, and HTC is indeed promoting VR execs to greater places of power, it could signal a decisive repositioning of HTC from a smartphone-first company to a primarily VR-first company. Considering HTC recently sold off much of its smartphone team to Google in a $1.1 billion deal, which saw half of HTC’s smartphone R&D division transferred to Google, they’ll need VR more than ever.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • MosBen

    Of course this is the way of things, but I fondly remember the two or three HTC phones that I owned. Granted, it’s been several cell phone cycles since I owned one, and they aren’t my favorite phone of all time (LG G3), but it’s weird to see them seeming to phase cell phones out of their business. Well, hopefully we’ll see some exciting developments for the Vive. beyond the Pro.

  • johngrimoldy

    This is an asinine idea. The two markets are incredibly dissimilar. The only reason smartphones have any connection to VR is because they’re a cheap (yet horribly insufficient) platform. (“Cheap” meaning there’s little additional outlay for those that already own).
    VR and smartphones are vastly different markets with different challenges and different potential.
    This is a stupid as Samsung merging their microwave division with their home theater division.
    Sell the smartphone business if its in trouble, you effing idiots.

    • Laurence Nairne

      They’re probably planning to do that over a period of time – phase out their smartphone division that is. I expect they will only retain a supporting capacity for their existing smartphone customers, and even that will go when the numbers drop.

    • Mateusz Pawluczuk

      As much as VR has grown since 2013 the market is still not big enough to warrant same level of “seriousness” if they were a VR only company. Even with Chinese market VR space is already quite competitive. I wish them all the best :) Who knows if ‘roomscale’ would be a standard if it wasnt for HTC?

      • johngrimoldy

        I worry that innovations like roomscale will suffer with HTC’s focus being blurred as a result of this merging. I have a Vive and at the time I purchased, felt it was the most advanced VR product available. I still love my Vive, but the competition is heating up.

        As a side-note, HTC’s support is the shits — they really need to do something about that — it’s a great product that you hope you never need support for.

    • Lucidfeuer

      How are they dissimilar given this current VR iteration is SOLELY based and in fact was created by Luckey with smartphone components (screen, proximity sensors and accele-gyrometer)…as well as working with smartphones?

      In fact the stupidest thing is that they’re probably trying to apply the same smartphone planned obsolescence and technology retention with minimum R&D and component costs investment model, which is why VR is stalling.

      • johngrimoldy

        How are they dissimilar? To me, one is a communication device and the other is an entertainment device. I don’t tweet or Facebook thru my Vive. I don’t check email, get directions, shop, pay bills, take/send photos, or listen to music thru my Vive. I simply don’t use my Vive with the same casualness of a smartphone. At the same time, I don’t sit with my smartphone for 2 hours on a game. I don’t GoogleEarth via my smartphone. I’ve also never paid more that $2.99 for an app for my smarthphone.

        Yeah, their components may be similar. In the same way that a food processor is similar to a blender. You *can* use both to chop ice or blend things. However, each has its own strengths. It makes sense that Luckey used smartphone components to prototype VR devices – it was sensible and convenient. The earliest home computers used televisions for monitors — convenience. However I disagree that the current VR iteration is based SOLELY on smartphone components as you say. Nothing about the Vive lighthouses or controllers is in any smarthphone that I’ve ever seen.

        Few will agree that the Samsung GearVR or the Google Daydream are true VR. To me, anything that you drop a cell phone into for “VR” is a glorified contemporary View Master. Stereoscopic 360-degree video is not VR. No 6 DOF, no VR.

        I think VR is stalling because there hasn’t yet been the killer app, the ONE thing that EVERYONE wants to do, that can only be done in VR. Also, to do high-end VR still requires a relatively significant investment, but that’s beginning to change.

        I respectfully maintain my contention that they’re different markets with very different futures.

        • Lucidfeuer

          Then we completely disagree on the reasons why VR is failing. I think people have been largely over the pricing or killer-app arguments which do matter.

          Instead, all the limitations you are talking about, both in your usage and in the different headsets specs, is precisely why VR is not selling: no 6DOF, no usable VR for exemple. That and dozens of other crucial basic things VR headsets should’ve had since the beginning. In fact that’s the difference with smartphone: the first iPhone was almost a “perfect” product in that it had all the components, specs thus capabilities it needed to be the universal products it still is today.

          VR hasn’t even started because it’s not merely a real practical product, and manufacturers are doing everything to stall it’s development towards a first basic practical product it seems.

          • johngrimoldy

            Your response is hard to interpret. Your first paragraph is hard to understand.

            So you’re saying the limitations I mentioned are why VR isn’t selling. Not paying bills, facebooking, or taking/sending photos with my Vive is why VR isn’t selling? My stance of “No 6DOF, no VR” is why VR is stalled? You had asked how smartphones and VR are dissimilar – that was my response. No matter what you say, dropping an iPhone into a Google Cardboard (or anything similar) is NOT VR. It’s 360 stereoscopic video. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

            The rest of your post sort of rambles. What are you saying? That VR isn’t a “perfect” product like the iPhone because it lacks functionality or components. Please elaborate. What features/functionality? You say dozens yet specifically cite zero. Because John Grimoldy can’t/won’t facebook or shop with it, or take/send photos with it? Because I demand 6DOF to call it VR?

            I maintain that VR is not yet mainstream because of the cost, the complexity of setup (Vive, and to a lesser degree the Rift) and that there still is no pressing reason for non-gamers to want/need one. That’s beginning to change with Big Screen and other social apps. The idea of being able to hang out in a stadium skybox with friends at a live sporting event is pretty compelling.

          • Lucidfeuer

            All my points were implied to be understood by anyone invested in VR criticism, but are probably not clear for everybody.

            When the very first iPhone was released it costed 700€ (so price is not a factor for VR), there was not much content/apps (so it’s not a factor of failure either), yet it sold 6 millions units the first years (so at least 5x what Oculus and Vive sold, 3 years after the first DK1).

            The reason why is because it was a “perfect” first product: it’s definition and components (not the actual electronics circuitry or chips, but in a broader sense) haven’t actually changed since. A smartphone is still a mobile computing system in a flat handheld device operated through a large tactile screen.

            Well what is “VR” or rather what should a VR headset be? I won’t detail (because by now everybody should know although there are different opinions) but what is certain is that current VR headset are not real product and there’s no a single “perfect first iteration” on the market yet, and that’s why it’s not picking-up. It’s not just about Facebook, Big Screen or Skybox, or any specific apps, it’s first about the fact that there’s not a single practical and valid hardware for “VR” no matter if it’s mobile headset or tethered headset which doesn’t make much difference…

          • johngrimoldy

            You have unusual prose with your content coming off as a little pretentious. (“…What VR should be I won’t detail because everybody should know…”) I’m asking what *you* think since you started replying and disagreeing with my posts.

            “…There’s not a single practical and valid hardware for ‘VR’..” What does that mean? I don’t know that VR has the capability of being particularly practical. AR, perhaps, but that’s a different topic and a different market. At this point, VR is almost entirely an entertainment platform with some reference and social apps intermixed. Google tried to be practical with Glass.

            With your point about iPhone sales figures, are you contending that it did so well because it was a “perfect” product and the Vive/Rift did not because they lack that perfection? Remember, smartphones were an upgrade/replacement for a very common device, the cell phone. Additionally, they offered enticing revolutionary features. The market was already there though, very ripe for a product like the iPhone. VR does not have the same sort of target market. It does not enjoy the luxury of being the natural next step that DVDs were to VHS, that CDs were to cassettes, that Cable was to VHF/UHF. Instead, it seems much more like the internet, such a huge shift that it’s taking a while to gain its footing.

            All the while, I’m enjoying the ride and I have no regrets of the expenses and uncertainty related to being an early adopter.

          • vU

            sounds like to me your talking out you arse,
            Calling a first generation iphone perfect is laughable. Your claim that the hardware is what made the iphone sell is quite frankly ridiculous. The majority of iphone customers couldn’t tell you then and most definitely couldn’t tell you now what kind of hardware is in their iphone or why its better than the last supposedly perfect generation that came before. yeah how many times can you improve on perfection..? oxymoronic<

            Hardware itself is only part of package. The larger and i'd say more important part is software, without games or programs to do VR stuff with, the google cardboard would be just as as good as the oculus rift. I also think aesthetic design, user-friendliness, friction to setup & operate, but mostly i think its about practicality or usefulness that is the most important. The cost is just a little too high for most people to buy a phone or vr headset if they don't think they'll use it much.

            So I agree with johngrimoldy and think the price is too high for people to buy a headset right now as its not a necessity of modern life like our smartphones. Smartphones are infinitely more useful today than vr goggles are. Even thought by itself The Roomscale VR maybe not that expensive now with windows mixed reality here, its only part of total cost as you really need a mid spec gaming PC to get the most out of it, which if people do not have a practical use for since they don't game, already have a laptop or more likely a smartphone, then it really is too high a barrier for entry into proper room scale VR.

            Look, i love hardware just as much as the next enthusiast but you best believe that we are the minority, the niche and ultimately not the target audience for mass consumer electronics… and with the way competition is now in the vr headset space, you won't be market leaders in this space for long if you sandbag consumers by giving inferior hardware to your competition. And what the hell do you expect anyway, you haven't specified what would make this "perfect" as you put it, headset? you don't know and you won't know because that headset only lives in the land of fallacy and unrealistic expectations inside your head. Electronics these days are made to be sold in volume, and VR headsets are no exception. In fact thats the reason why VR is as prevalent as it is today, so your'e claims about "they" not giving us the "perfect" vr Headset hardware is illogical at best. unless you could specifically say how they could improve on the hardware or even what tech they are withholding from us that they could put in the next gen headset without making it too expensive for mass consumer adoption. I'd love to hear it (and so would "they")

          • MasterElwood

            Cardboard is not VR. But GearVR / GO IS. The difference is the stable 60Hz, the high end sensors and the low persistence display. 3DOF is still VR – just not premium VR

      • AJ_74

        The difference is that smartphones are powerful computers/communications devices that fit in your pocket, and VR headsets are dumb display/control technology. One is something 5 billion people can’t imagine living without and the other is a niche product for hardcore gamers with lots of disposable cash (I own 2 Oculus Rifts, so I’m including myself in that category).

        Therein lies the problem with HTC’s marketing of the Vive/Vive Pro. They are positioning (i.e. pricing) them like premium smartphones, but without any of the handy smartphone-like demand.

        And speaking of smartphone demand (or lack thereof), HTC’s smartphone business went belly-up precisely because the company refused to listen to what the consumer market was telling them; Namely that consumers wanted bigger smartphones, and that metal/industrial designs have limited appeal (as in nearly zero appeal to the fairer sex).

        But even as their smartphone business crumbles around them, HTC is again going to completely disregard what the market is telling them in regards to VR. After seeing their sizable market-share lead over Oculus disintegrate in a matter of months following Oculus’ massive price cuts, you’d think they’d get the message (nope).

        HTC is still charging $600 for the Vive nearly 2 years since launch. Their competition is charging $200 less for what most people consider a superior product (the controllers are unquestionably superior, the minimum PC requirements are lower due to ASW, there’s more quality software available and it’s more comfortable for longer play sessions).

        Next comes the Vive Pro, which appears to be headed back to the kiss-of-death $799 price point, complete with the same brick-in-hand controllers. But that’s OK; It does come with Lighthouse 2.0 sensors. Ya know, just in case you have an empty 33x33ft room handy.

        • AJ, you speak my own mind too. HTC are positioning themselves as the “premium” supplier of VR (their words) yet they still use wands when Valve have created the Knuckles and for whatever reason they are not partnering. The cost of the Vive HMD does not give it the edge they think it does. Yes Lighthouse tracking is considered the best but it also takes more time to setup and is it really worth a 40% increase in cost over the Rift, not only that but Lighthouse is not even HTC’s tech.

          If Oculus create their own tracked puck/device then any lead that Vive have in the pro market will diminish considerably (mocap, tracked peripherals etc)

          • MasterElwood

            The BEST tracking is RIFT + 4 Sensors on USB 3.0.

          • I disagree.

            4 sensors would saturate USB and reduce system performance. Even Oculus recommend a third sensor goes on USB2 to avoid saturating the USB bandwidth.

            So you have to buy a USB card to make that work.

            The Rift sensors also need to attach to the PC (unlike lighthouse) so you then have to get long extension cables and repeaters for a large play space, not only that but the FOV of the sensors on the Rift is much smaller than Lighthouse (which is why you need 4 compared to 2 lighthouse) so you would run into even more issues with bigger play spaces trying to set it up.

            But I prefer Knuckles over wands which is why I own a Rift so it has that :)

          • MasterElwood

            Because USB is a shitty concept (you can have lez say 6 USB 3.0 ports – but just 2 devices can bring your system down because many ports have not full but shared bandwidth but you can’t see from the outside if the are full or shared and wich ports are shared and connected to wich controller… WHAAAAAT). Try to explain THAT mess to a normal user. Also: 2 sensors on 3.0 and one on 2.0 works really well for most users.

            But if you want the BEST tracking of them all (least jitter least noise least occlusion most robust and most precise) – then it’s 4 on 3.0

            And it’s easy: just get a FULL 4 USB 3.0 port PCI card. 70 bucks – and done are your usb problems forever…

          • Whats the point of all that?
            The cost of:
            2 x extra sensors
            1 x USB 3.0, 4 port card
            3 x 5m USB extender cables
            1 x 5m HDMI cable

            …puts it above the Vive cost.

          • MasterElwood

            The point is: thats what you need if you want the BEST! Thats not what you NEED! Besides: even THEN prices are about equal to the VIVE. Remember that you dont need to buy a DAS for the RIFT…

          • I am still unsure how this is still BEST? Can you elaborate on why 4 sensors make it better than the vive?

          • MasterElwood

            Nah – i was just talking about the tracking. Here are the reasons:

            1. Vive tracking has more jitter. There is a tool where you can measure the jitter. When i had just one RIFT sensor – my VIVE had lower (better) Jitter. With touch and 2 sensors – the jitter were about the same. But with 4 Sensors on 3.0 – the jitter is WAY WAY lower! About 1/4 of the VIVE / 2 RIFT sensor tracking. And yes – my base stations were mounted rock solid and on par with measurements of other vive users. (Note: this only counts for my 2.4m x 2.3m playarea. RIFT tracking gets less precise if playareas get really large).

            2. RIFT sensors work completly noise free – vive base stations do not. I often could hear them (not while in VR of course – but before and after).

            3. RIFT tracking is more robust. I always had problems with mirrors, uncovered windows – and other reflective surfaces around my play area. I always had spots where the wands just floated away or things like that. With RIFT: no problems. Now my mirror is back on the wall and my windows are uncovered again. And nothing is floating.

            4. With 4 sensors – you have way less chance of occlusion. With the VIVE i sometimes got occlusion. Not often of course – but in special cases when you are crowling on the floor like in the Budget cuts demo. Not so with 4 sensors. If they are positioned right – occlusion is virtually impossible.

            So – here are my reasons. Mind you – looks like vive tracking is going to catch up with tracking 2.0…

          • Thanks for the detailed reply. Hmm, OK. Decent points.

            How high up did you mount your rift sensors to still get tracking when right at ground level, ie, crawling? I read optimum was 6 foot high but I was hoping for 8 foot myself, just so I can reach up in games like The Climb.

          • MasterElwood

            they are between 7 and 7.8 foot.
            Looks like you are good :-)

          • Get Schwifty!

            Four sensors is not even officially supported….

          • MasterElwood

            Says who? Because if they are working for EVERYONE (with enough usb 3.0 ports) – including showing up as “green” in the app – without hack or anything like that – than they are supported.

            Of course Oculus doesn’t promote 4 Sensors because 4 – especially 4 on USB 3.0 are completely overkill for 99 percent of use cases – but they ARE supported out of the box.

            If you disagree – show me where Oculus states that you can not use more than 3 (can – not should!)

          • Get Schwifty!

            Um Oculus says it’s not officially supported…look it up. This is NOT the same as saying it won’t work or shouldn’t be done… not supported means just that.

        • Lucidfeuer

          “the other is a niche product for hardcore gamers with lots of disposable cash” No it’s not. In fact this is what manufacturers (HTC, Oculus, Samsung etc…) made it to be and why it failing.

          For the rest, I agree with you.

  • oompah

    smart move

    • >> For VR HTC should partner with AMD…
      No thanks! Apple did just that and we are stuck with expensive outdated OpenCL based cards while CUDA (On NVidia) raced ahead getting support by all the industry software solutions that matter.

      • Apple stopped using Nvidia after they shipped faulty cards for the MacBook Pro in two different generations. OpenCL is an open standard that runs on AMD, Nvidia, and Intel GPUs. When it comes to compute loads, Vega beats Pascal without paying the premium for Nvidia’s workstation cards.

        • The logic board issues? Overheating etc. The GT series were known for that in the MBP, Apple design the airflow in their machines. They also take control of drivers. The New Mac Pro in 2013 used modified AMD cards from 2011 and the drivers were always multiple versions behind AMD’s own drivers. Apple + AMD = Bad for consumers and I have been bitten too many times for it to ever happen again.

          Anyway, the VFX software industry (which I am in) doesn’t use OpenCL they use CUDA and the response is always the same when we try to demand better OpenCL support. They just repeat the same thing: “When OpenCL matures we may consider it”. it has been like that for 5 years now so it doesn’t matter if Vega beats Pascal based on that track record. And I know OpenCL is capable, just look at Blender when they took on an official AMD engineer for a year to boost OpenCL rendering. Amazing results.

          But, a GTX 1080Ti/Titan is vastly more useful than any AMD card if you are in VFX. The NVidia workstation cards like Quadros are all about driver support, stability and used in other pro markets like machine learning, medical and CAD/CAM. And yeah, the price/performance of them is terrible. You can get 5 x 1080Ti’s for the price of one P100 and the combined compute on the 1080’s puts it way above that single P100.

          • Rainfox Wolfstone

            That’s a dangerous situation to be in, one one company with that much control

          • I agree. But consumers want the best for whatever that is. NVidia are stronger at the high end as they put tons of R&D into their SDKs (Documentation, support, tools etc) as they are the owner of CUDA technology, this makes them more popular with studios and developers.

            OpenCL is a standard (managed by The Khronos Group) so everything that AMD and others put into it is non proprietary. AMD need a solid SDK for compute to match NVidia’s solution rather than trying to remain with open standards as that has not worked well “at the high end”.

            Saying all this, AMD has had a great year in 2017. Cryptocurrency has emptied their GPU stocks. Ryzen was released, and now their new CPU with GPU (Called an APU) will compete with Intel.

            However, I think their outlook for 2018 and onwards is for a more focus on mobile, console and mining cards rather than a jack-of-all-trades. That is where they are finally making a big return in profit.