20. Peter Chou, CEO, HTC - Most Powerful People in Wireless


Peter Chou, CEO, HTCWhat makes him powerful: It's been a tough year for HTC and Peter Chou. Once the darling of the smartphone market, particularly in Android's infancy in 2009 and 2010, HTC has since fallen on hard times, eclipsed by Samsung Electronics and the might of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Still, through all of it, Chou has remained resilient, and the company's renewed focus on Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8 may give the company an opening to reestablish itself once again as a premier smartphone maker.

There's no sugarcoating it. HTC has had a weak year financially. The company's first-quarter profit fell 70 percent, second-quarter profit dropped 58 percent and third-quarter profit plunged 79 percent. HTC has been hammered at the high end of the market by Apple and Samsung and attacked at the low end by the likes of Huawei and ZTE. Chou took the stage at Mobile World Congress in February to introduce HTC's One series of phones, which represented a slimming down of the company's portfolio and a refocusing of its brand around audio quality, industrial design and high-performance camera technology. So far HTC's results indicate that consumers haven't bought into the idea.

Yet Chou has remained clear-eyed about the company's strategy. He acknowledged it would be difficult to reclaim lost U.S. market share, said the company would avoid the low end of the smartphone market to preserve its brand and vowed to make inroads in China and India. Less than a year after purchasing a 50.1 percent majority stake in audio technology firm Beats Electronics for $309 million, HTC sold back 25 percent to Beats founders for $150 million, perhaps an admission that the investment wasn't the wisest (HTC sill uses the Beats technology in its phones).

Still, Chou's leadership style came into focus in a blunt internal memo to staff  that leaked in August. The memo said that the company had slowed down due to burdensome bureaucracy, but said that with renewed focus it can regain its edge. Chou said that there was a lack of "decision, strategic direction or sense of urgency" within the company despite many meetings to hash things out. "Please make sure that we kill bureaucracy," he wrote. "Make sure [that] we are doing the right thing quick and make it work."

Chou and HTC will need hat renewed focus going forward. The company plans to boost its marketing and is launching a joint marketing campaign with Microsoft for tis Windows Phone 8 phones, which have been well received (of HTC's 8X, The Verge said "The signature Windows Phone 8 handset has arrived,"  and CNET said, "What a Windows phone should be.") Chou can pocket those plaudits, but will need a lot of savvy and increased sales to get back to the smartphone promised land.--Phil

Special Report: Top 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless 2012