After a decade at the helm of HTC, Peter Chou was last year suddenly ousted from his post as CEO in the wake of negative early reviews of the company’s 2015 smartphone flagship, the One M9. In my preview of the phone, I described it as a beautiful disappointment, and others agreed that it carried on HTC’s fine design tradition along with its established weaknesses around imaging. Company co-founder Cher Wang stepped into the CEO role, replacing Chou, who shifted over to running the HTC Future Development Lab.
Reports earlier today, however, indicated that Chou had left HTC in September, when he became chairman of Digital Domain — the visual effects company originally co-founded by James Cameron and now owned by Hong Kong’s Sun Innovation — and HTC itself has confirmed that to be the case:
“HTC can confirm that Peter Chou retired from the Company after assuming the chairmanship of Digital Domain in September 2015, although he was retained as an Advisor to enable HTC to leverage his extensive experience. We thank Peter for his long-term commitment to the business and wish him well in his retirement.”
Chou’s change in job title now looks to have been just another of the ceremonial extended firings that Taiwanese corporate bosses are afforded. Instead of simply being dumped like a sack of outdated ideas about a rapidly evolving mobile market, Chou was afforded the time to find a new job and make a more dignified and discreet exit.
I’ll miss Peter Chou’s flamboyance, though I suspect the age of bombastic CEOs like him is now firmly in our past. Like a Taiwanese Steve Ballmer, Chou liked to sing and dance on stage, and he was also prone to gaffes like revealing unannounced phones prematurely. That may have been publicly endearing, but his leadership style wasn’t exactly conducive to keeping HTC’s best talent around, and after a while discontent inside the company grew to the point where he had to step down.
Now in the hands of Cher Wang, HTC seems like a more harmonious company, and its refocusing around the promising Vive VR headset has been accompanied by one of its most accomplished flagships in this year’s HTC 10.