Google Daydream: good, cheap, and exclusive

When Google launched Cardboard in 2014 it surprised us with a simple, accesible way to enjoy Virtual Reality experiences. The experiment allowed everybody to experiment and get that first impressions with this kind of content. You didn’t have to invest a lot of money in some previous version of Oculus Rift to marvel at these virtual worlds: you could spend $10 dollars and feel that promise.

Google Cardboard democratized Virtual Reality.

Everything has changed with Google Daydream, the updated version of that first device that is radically different from the original idea. Whereas Cardboard was open to everybody and every device, Daydream is at the moment closed to just two smartphones: Pixel and Pixel XL.

The price goes up as well, and we don’t know for sure what are the specs needed by other hardware makers in order to make their smartphones Daydream compatible. The problem is, there’s no backwards compatibility, so what in the past was accesible to everyone now is just available to a few users.

So Daydream maybe a better product with a better build quality and maybe better content —still no killer app, it seems—, but it no longer democratizes Virtual Reality. Daydream instead goes the other way around..

And that’s a tragedy.

 

VR has too much to prove

Lucas Matney on TechCrunch:

At a company event today in San Francisco, Samsung President & Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn detailed that the company is actively pursuing both smartphone-focused VR headsets and standalone solutions. The decision to market and ship a dedicated all-in-one device would rely largely on where the VR market goes in the upcoming months and years, he says, and whether the clunky headsets can gain wider adoption.

That seems a smart decision. VR was going to change the world and at the moment both Oculus and HTC have not convinced much people of the revolution that this technology was bringing us.

I see Sony and its PlayStation VR as a much more compelling offer for most users. They’ll have to spend some serious money besides the PS4/Pro itself (the PlayStation VR bundle costs $500 and comes with the headset, PlayStation Camera and two PlayStation Move controllers), but the offer is quite good for a solution that is not that far from what Oculus and HTC give -and I’ve tested all of them-.

Virtual Reality got us excited, but it hasn’t brought that revolution it promised… yet. We’ll see if future titles really show us what this tech is capable of, but as of now, it’s too expensive to exit its niche market.

Microsoft’s ‘mixed reality’ sounds like a confusing plan B

Terry Myerson at Computex 2016:

Today, we announced that Windows Holographic is coming to devices of all shapes and sizes from fully immersive virtual reality to fully untethered holographic computing. Today we invited our OEM, ODM, and hardware partners to build PCs, displays, accessories and mixed reality devices with the Windows Holographic platform.

It’s good to hear that Microsoft opens up its platform and allows others to develop its own devices, but this feels weird. Why would anybody want to invest time and resources in something that hasn’t proved anything?

The same happens with that new ‘mixed reality’ concept that Microsoft has been talking about. Combining VR platforms with AR platforms could be interesting, sure, but Microsoft seems to be the weak one in this battle. HTC and Oculus have the winning hand (or at least a better hand) because they’ve already showed that this platforms can do something that interests certain kind of users.

All Microsoft has given us at this point is nice promo videos.

What if HTC and Xiaomi merged?

HTC’s revenue has dropped 55% year-on-year accoding to its latest financial results. The company situation is worrisome, and its smartphone business has been unable to reverse that fact. Every single model released in the last few years hasn’t had the warm welcome other HTC devices had in the previous years.

But HTC is far from dead. The HTC Vive seems to prove that, and it’s clear that virtual reality –and wearables– is now a possible last resort now that their phones are fighting with irrelevance and, above all, with the ones from Apple, Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei.

Xiaomi is doing quite well, though: it’s soaring in wearables and the recent launch of Xiaomi Mi 5 marks an interesting milestone that will allow them to compete in the high end (with almost mainstream prices).

HTC’s smartphone business isn’t working, and Xiaomi smartphone business is limited by its international expansion, something that HTC could provide.

What would happen if these two companies merged? Current HTC market cap is $81.94B, while Xiaomi has a market valuation of $45B. One could benefit from the other: HTC would be able to take advantage of Xiaomi’s strengths and ditch its own smartphones (or combine them with the best from its partner), while Xiaomi would be able to expand globally faster.

Is this nonsense?