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How HTC is reaching out to developers (Inside Apps)

The smartphone manufacturer has in recent months taken a proactive approach to working with the development community.

HTC's developer outreach booth at a Sprint conference last week. Roger Cheng/CNET

Nowadays, everybody has to work with developers.

Just ask HTC. Not content to build Android and Windows Phone smartphones, the company in June launched a developer-outreach program, HTC Dev. The goal: to give developers access to some of its products' niftier features while drumming up support for the company.

"Android and mobile in general is so competitive, developing mindshare is important," said Leigh Momii, a developer evangelist for HTC. "For developers, it offers them a way to stand out."

Prior to HTC Dev, the company had a developer following its long history of smartphones. But HTC largely left the developers alone.

But with so many companies taking advantage of Android's operating system to create competitive products, HTC felt that rallying some of the Android developers to its cause couldn't hurt.

In August, HTC released its Open Sense software development kit, which basically looks like an add-on to the standard Android SDK. The HTC SDK allows developers to work with the Scribe pen for its tablets, as well as with the stereoscopic 3D feature found on the HTC Evo 3D.

HTC plans to release later iterations that will further take advantage of some of HTC's other unique features, Momii said.

The HTC SDK isn't exclusive; using it doesn't mean the app won't properly run on other Android phones. Momii said that the app using that SDK will be able to "unlock additional features" on HTC phones, while still running normally on other phones.

In addition to technical support, the company is taking a personalized approach to building relationships with developers. Momii was participating in a Sprint developer conference, where we met, but she said she also attends small local meet-up sessions. In addition, the company is looking at forums and other interactive methods of communicating with developers.

HTC has made it easier to loan out tablets and smartphones to developers for testing.

"The response has been strong," she said.

Orbotix staffers piloting the ball with an HTC Flyer tablet. Roger Cheng/CNET

The company has also selected a few developers to highlight at conferences. Next to HTC's booth at the Sprint conference was start-up Orbotix, which plans to sell an automated, glowing ball that can be controlled with a special app available on Android and iOS.

HTC provided a little extra support, allowing Orbotix to add a feature to the app that lets people control the ball's movement by drawing out a path with the Scribe pen on the Flyer tablet. The Sphero ball drew a nice crowd during the "draw and drive" demonstration.

"Out of all the (original equipment manufacturers), they're the first to put us under their wing," said Ross Ingram, a Web developer and developer advocate for Orbotix. "It feels really good."