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HTC Corp. launches phones running Windows 8 in Taiwan

TAIPEI--Taiwan's HTC Corp. launched its latest Windows Phone 8 (WP8) smartphone in Taiwan on Tuesday, at a time when Windows phones are forecast to remain a niche market.

The high-end HTC 8X will hit local stores later this week with a price tag of NT$17,900 (US$612), the company said.

The HTC 8S, with lower specifications, will go on sale in December at under NT$9,000, it said.

Jack Tong, president of HTC North Asia, said Taiwan is the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to obtain the new WP8 models. They will soon be available in Vietnam and Hong Kong in the first wave of the company's worldwide launch, he said.

“The introduction of WP8 phones will, to some extent, contribute to our sales in the fourth quarter, as we are going to hold a number of promotion events in cooperation with Microsoft Corp.,” he said at the product launch.

The 4.3-inch HTC 8X is equipped with a 1.5-GHz dual-core processor and an 8-megapixel camera and supports 4G LTE super-fast wireless connectivity in selected countries. The 4-inch HTC 8S, with a 1-GHz dual-core processor, targets the mid- to low-end market.

Davis Tsai, general manager of Microsoft Taiwan Corp., said he believes WP8 will have a higher market share in Taiwan than in the global market since the features of the phones are likely to be more attractive to young Taiwanese and corporate customers.

The success of WP8 is crucial to Microsoft, which has failed to make meaningful inroads with its redesigned mobile operating system since its launch two years ago, said Nick Dillon, senior analyst at the research firm Ovum.

“While there is very little wrong with the software, its design is significantly different from the current status quo of the 'grid of apps' user interface, and this change represents a perceived risk to potential customers,” he wrote in a report Tuesday.

However, Microsoft built consumer familiarity with the new design last year by extending it to both its Xbox game console and its Windows 8 operating system for PCs and tablets, the analyst said.

“Microsoft is reportedly spending US$1 billion on marketing Windows 8, which we are expecting to have knock-on benefits, generating greater interest in WP8,” Dillon said.

Ovum has forecast that Windows' share of the global smartphone market will grow from 4.5 percent in 2012 to 13 percent in 2017, putting it in third place behind Apple Inc.'s iOS and Google Inc.'s Android platforms.

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