The fourth quarter typically gives consumer electronics companies a big boost each year thanks to the holiday shopping rush, but stiff competition and weak marketing efforts from HTC (2498) resulted in a disastrous December quarter. The Taiwan-based smartphone maker on Monday reported fourth-quarter profit of just NT$1 billion ($34.5 million) — its lowest quarterly profit since 2004 — on NT$60 billion ($2.69 billion) in sales. The company’s net profit fell 91% year-over-year and missed analysts’ NT$1.48 billion consensus by a wide margin. HTC CEO Peter Chou recently acknowledged some of his company’s shortcomings and said it will focus more on marketing in 2013. HTC’s top rivals Samsung (005930) and Apple (AAPL) each have marketing budgets that reach into the billions, however, so the company will have to find other ways to compete if it hopes to reverse its struggles.

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than a decade, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.