We had been hearing rumors that HTC had recently left Khronos. In the latest slide deck that we got from Khronos from their announcements at this week’s SIGGRAPH 2012 this year we saw that, while many companies had been added, HTC had been removed.
Looking at the comparison between 2011 and 2012, you can see that HTC’s logo is missing and they are the only major manufacturer that is not a member of the Khronos Group. The Khronos Group board of promoters includes manufacturers the likes of Apple, Samsung, Sony and Nokia. Other members include industry titans Google, Adobe, Broadcom, Marvell, ARM, AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Marvell and Texas Instruments. Realistically, the list is well over 100 companies long and amounts to the majority of the industry.
Having attended Khronos‘ party last night at SIGGRAPH, we were in a unique position to ask around the various Khronos members and see if any of them had any insights regarding HTC’s departure and whether or not it was true. We actually didn’t have a chance to take a look at the list of companies that were members until after going to the party, however, we were still had more than enough information to adequately back up this story.
So, why would HTC leave Khronos, the most important open standards body in the mobile industry? It all has to start with the fact that HTC had recently bought S3 Graphics from VIA Technologies. For some, this may feel like it may have been a long time ago, as many things in the mobile industry do, however, it was only in July of last year. The interesting bit in all of this is that both companies are part of the Formosa Plastics family of companies, a 200+ company conglomerate lead by the Wang family. Even one of the major leaders within S3 Graphics has family ties to the Wang family.
The real purpose for HTC buying S3 from what is effectively itself is so that both companies are considered to be under one legal entity. This is because HTC is in an intense battle with Apple in regards to patents and such. HTC has found themselves to be one of the major players that have lost many of their patent lawsuits against companies like Microsoft and Apple, and as a result went out and ‘bought’ a company like S3 Graphics that has an extensive graphics portfolio. Some of the litigation that HTC is involved in with Apple include patents owned by S3. Mind you, HTC and Apple are both suing each other at this phase of the legal battles. Additionally, HTC has had some of their patent disputes rejected by judges in the US and the ITC.
At this point, HTC views Apple as the enemy and Apple is very deeply embedded inside of Khronos. It also doesn’t only have to do with their own patents, but rather the fact that Intel and Apple each own about 9% of imagination technologies, another major player in Khronos.
After having talked with many people at Khronos, it is pretty well known that Apple plays a big part of the Khronos Group’s growth and evolution, however, they seem to operate on a different set of rules. Some examples include the complete and utter lack of Apple’s logo in any of Khronos’ literature or mentions of partners. Rather, the Khronos Group is forced to simple name apple without including any fonts. Additionally, if you look at all of Khronos’ logos for all of their open APIs, you will see that all of them have a very similar design scheme and familiar look, except for OpenCL. This is because Apple is the original author of OpenCL and they demanded that the logo be the way that Apple wanted it to be and nothing else, hence why the OpenCL logo is so different from the rest of the Khronos APIs.
It almost goes without saying that Apple has quite a bit of pull within Khronos and Apple’s influence inside of Khronos combined with the continued litigation between the two companies are like two to major factors for HTC’s departure. We do believe that HTC’s departure may weaken the strength of Khronos, however, we do not believe that HTC should be leaving such an important standards body when the company is struggling to be as successful as they were in the past with their latest phones. Khronos has done a lot of good for the development of mobile industry standard APIs that enable manufacturers to work together to make developing for mobile easier and to improve performance.
We have attempted to contact HTC for comment but at the time of publication, they have not responded to our emails or phone calls. We will update this with their statement as it arrives.