Chialin Chang, HTC’s President of Smartphone and Connected Devices Business, has made his resignation official, reportedly bringing with it a melding of the company’s 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 (12:25 ET): We’ve reached out to HTC and are waiting on further confirmation.

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.
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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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  • 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.

    • NooYawker

      My first smartphone was the HTC Hero. That was right around the time HTC went off the deep end and decided to release a new phone every week.

  • 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.

      • 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)

        • 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