HTC Loses Another Senior Exec As COO Steps Down — But May’s Phone Sales Are One Bright Spot Amid The Gloom

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Troubled Taiwanese mobile maker HTC, which has seen its profits plummet as it struggles to compete in an Android mobile space dominated by its Galaxy-spewing rival Samsung, is losing (yet) another senior executive. Bloomberg reports that Chief Operating Officer Matthew Costello will step down after less than three years at the company. Costello joined HTC in December 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Bloomberg reports that Fred Liu, currently HTC’s president of engineering and operations, will “take on Costello’s responsibilities in an expanded role covering operations, quality, sales operations and services”. The details were in an email to employees obtained by the news agency, which also notes that despite stepping down as COO Costello will stay on as an executive adviser after moving to Europe. We’ve reached out to HTC for comment and will update this story with any response.

Update: HTC has now sent the following statement, made by CEO Peter Chou: “To achieve success, we’ve had to change when it was right for the business. Recently was one of those times. We took control of our business, narrowed our focus, and launched our new HTC One. Actions to streamline our business resulted in some reorganization and executive departures, but initial sales of the One have validated our approach. Response for our flagship device has been strong and demand has exceeded our expectations. We are confident that the business steps we have taken and continue to take are the right ones to lead to a strong resurgence of the HTC brand.”

Costello’s departure is the latest in a string of senior exec loses at HTC, including its Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Greg Fisher, Chief Product Office Kouji Kodera, Global Communications VP Jason Gordon, Global Retail Marketing Manager Rebecca Rowland, digital marketing chief John Starkweather and Eric Lin, manager of product strategy — all within the past three months. Last November the company also announced the appointment of a new Chief Marketing Officer, Benjamin Ho, to replace John Wang from January, with the aim of turning the marketing noise up on HTC’s innovations.

The company’s prior ‘quietly brilliant’ marketing messaging has fizzled against the onslaught of Samsung’s well-oiled and funded marketing machinery — which is pretty much the opposite of quiet. So it barely seemed to matter that HTC made a cracking Android flagship in the HTC One, arguably the best Android flagship on the market, because selling smartphones has become a game of who can shout the loudest for the longest. A game of brash tones, if you will.

But there’s one bright spot amid all this gloom for HTC. The company has just posted monthly revenues for May showing a 48.03% surge in sales — its best uplift all year (it has, however, been a terrible year for HTC). It’s still 3.35% down year-on-year but considering April’s revenues were down 36.87% that’s a substantial improvement. May’s revenues were NT$29 billion ($970 million).

HTC revenue

Whether HTC can claw back from the brink with one star phone in its portfolio is, however, debatable. Its Facebook Home gamble, with the HTC First, looks to have backfired, as that device has been withdrawn pre-sale in Europe and its position in the U.S. looks perilous. Meanwhile Samsung keeps on firing forth iterations of its Galaxy flagships aimed at saturating the market with differed sized and priced versions of its hardware, leaving even less wiggle room for HTC.

Still, another quietly positive note for HTC is that Google looks to be stepping in to try to help out a little, by offering a Google Edition of the HTC One for sale on its Play Store. After all, an Android ecosystem dominated by Samsung is not without problems for Mountain View — for Android ecosystem health/biodiversity reasons — but also because of the risk that Samsung starts to hold too many of its cards. Whatever Google’s motives, HTC could certainly do with a few friends in high places right now.