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HTC tablets fade from U.S. market, but firm keeps options open

SAN DIEGO--HTC has discontinued sales of tablets in the United States. However, a company executive said the Taiwanese handset maker could re-enter the space if it builds a tablet that could "make a splash."

"We're watching that market [tablets] very, very closely," said Jeff Gordon, HTC's global online communications manager.

During the past two years HTC has sold three tablets in the United States:  the Flyer; the WiMAX-capable Evo View 4G for Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S); and the 10-inch, LTE-capable Jetstream through AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T). HTC no longer sells the tablets.

"It was a great learning experience for us, and they definitely met expectations," Gordon said of the tablets. However, he acknowledged that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad continues to dominate the tablet market and he said that HTC would only consider returning to the tablet space if it developed a product that could make inroads against the iPad and other tablets.

Gordon said it's unclear what strategy HTC might take in a possible return to tablets. He said the company could try to tackle the lower-end of the market, as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has attempted with the Wi-Fi-only Nexus 7, or it could build a more powerful device that would cost more.

"We're very much not set on one strategy over another," he said. HTC's previous tablet entries have spanned the gamut: The company's Jetstream launched at $700 and its W-Fi-only Flyer device sold for $299 through Best Buy.

According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of tablet owners reported having an iPad, down from 81 percent in Pew's 2011 survey. Android-based devices made up the remainder of the U.S. tablet market, the Pew survey found. Samsung is the main vendor of Android tablets.

HTC isn't the only company to pull back from tablets. For example, Hewlett-Packard discontinued sales of its TouchPad tablet and LG Electronics decided this summer to put its tablet development on hold to concentrate on smartphones. Other companies though have redoubled their efforts in the space: Amazon recently announced the LTE-capable Kindle Fire HD and Apple is rumored to be preparing the smaller iPad Mini.

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