Facebook’s virtual reality arm may soon find itself in the unfamiliar position of playing catch-up with hardware competitors.
Last week, TechCrunch reported that Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe had decided to leave Facebook partially due to his “fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus” and decisions surrounding the cancellation of a next-generation “Rift 2” project.
The company’s prototype “Rift 2” device, codenamed Caspar, was a “complete redesign” of the original Rift headset, a source familiar with the matter tells us. Its cancellation signified an interest by Facebook leadership to focus on more accessible improvements to the core Rift experience that wouldn’t require the latest PC hardware to function. Iribe did not agree with the direction, with a source telling us that he was specifically not interested in “offering compromised experiences that provided short-term user growth but sacrificed on comfort and performance.”
In the wake of the overhaul’s cancellation, the company will be pursuing a more modest product update — possibly called the “Rift S” — to be released as early as next year, which makes minor upgrades to the device’s display resolution while more notably getting rid of the external sensor tracking system, sources tell us. Instead, the headset will utilize the integrated “inside-out” Insight tracking system which is core to Facebook’s recently-announced Oculus Quest standalone headset.
The “Constellation” tracking system on the current-generation Rift offers precise accuracy thanks to the static external sensors that track the headset and Touch controllers. While the Insight system would likely offer users a much more simplified setup process, a clear pain point of the first-generation product, “inside-out” tracking systems have greater limitations when it comes to the lighting conditions they work in and are generally less accurate than systems with external trackers.
While Oculus has long led the way on hardware advances, this release could be seen as the company playing catch-up with competitors like Microsoft, which has partnered with OEMs including Samsung, Lenovo and LG to release headsets on its Windows Mixed Reality platform that also feature inside-out tracking as well as higher resolution displays than the Oculus Rift.
“While we don’t comment on rumors/speculation about our future products, as we shared last week, PC VR remains a part of our strategy and is a category we will continue to invest in. In addition to hardware, we have a robust software roadmap and are funding content well into 2020,” an Oculus spokesperson told TechCrunch.
There are some clear benefits for Oculus pushing iterative hardware in an iPhone-like “S” manner, especially around affordability, as a more drawn out device life cycle gives both Oculus and PC component manufacturers time to reduce VR’s high barrier to entry in terms of cost.
The cancellation of its Caspar “Rift 2” project, does suggest a less aggressive pace of innovation for the company with its flagship premium VR product. The move away from a redesign could alienate early adopters and send them to other platforms. It could also lead Oculus into a situation where new titles that take advantage of the latest systems aren’t compatible with Rift hardware.
At its Oculus Connect developer conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared that the Oculus Rift, Quest and Go represented “the completion of its first-generation of VR products.” As Zuckerberg continues to double-down on his long-term goal to bring 1 billion users into VR, the need to build the Oculus user base is growing more important but it’s unclear how essential the company believes leading the high-end PC VR market is to defining that early mainstream success.
Samsung foldable screens might soon be available to Chinese OEMs
The core feature of a foldable phone is, of course, its foldable screen and it is also the biggest hurdle for smartphone makers who want to get into this market. There are extremely few companies producing flexible screens and those often have exclusivity arrangements with certain smartphone makers. Samsung Display, for example, supplies Samsung Electronics’ with the foldable screens for the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip but it might soon start selling these components to Chinese smartphone manufacturers.
The exclusivity may sound good for Samsung’s mobile business but it definitely isn’t for Samsung Display. The latter is already starting to feel the heat of the competition as more display makers start eating into its share of the OLED market. It needs another advantage to make it the preferred supplier of device makers and that may happen by opening up orders for its foldable screens to other manufacturers.
According to ETNews, Samsung Display will be supplying foldable displays to Chinese phone makers this year. This will include both kinds of screens that have been seen on the Galaxy Z Fold, which folds left and right, as well as the Galaxy Z Flip that folds up and down. Samsung Display will still of course reserve most of its panels for Samsung Electronics, giving it the upper hand when it comes to quantity.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Samsung Display tried to sell its foldable screens to another manufacturer. Huawei, which uses BOE’s foldable screen, was testing Samsung’s panels but that was put on hold after the Chinese OEM was hit with US export sanctions. Potential customers for Samsung’s foldable screens reportedly include OPPO and Vivo.
At the moment, Samsung Display has the upper hand as it is the only one so far using Ultra-Thin Glass or UTG, though that could change soon as BOE catches up. This shift in the display market could mean that we will soon find even more foldable phones this year, which will hopefully also include more affordable options.
There is really no love lost between Apple and Facebook even as the latter has to begrudgingly yield to Apple’s rules if it wants any place on iPhones and iPads. That won’t keep Facebook from airing its grievances any opportunity it can and the latest comes from founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself during the company’s quarterly earnings call. In no unclear words, Zuckerberg paints Apple’s controversial new anti-tracking policy not as something just to protect users but also to protect its own vested interests.
It might boggle the mind that Zuckerberg would paint Apple as one of Facebook’s biggest competitors given that their businesses don’t exactly intersect. That, however, isn’t exactly true anymore in one very specific sense. Facebook’s top exec pretty much pits iMessage and FaceTime as direct and fierce rivals to Facebook’s own Messenger and WhatsApp.
He goes on to say that Apple’s new privacy policies are really meant to drive out the competition as it puts Apple’s first-party apps at an advantage with private APIs and special permissions that third-party apps will never have access to. Apple’s apps are also pre-installed on iPhones and iPads, of course, and Facebook is seemingly losing Android partners willing to risk their customers’ ire in preloading Facebook apps.
Naturally, Zuckerberg also reiterated Facebook’s repeated warnings to advertisers how the upcoming privacy changes in iOS will affect ad revenues, including its own. Apple, however, shows no signs of backing down and will implement those changes in full this year.
iPhone, iPad, Mac, Services net sales all rocket up in Apple Q1 2021
Today’s earnings call for apple showed blockbuster success in basically every respect. If we’re looking at net sales by category, Apple’s shown growth in iPhone net sales, net sales of iPad, Mac, “Wearables, Home, and Accessories,” and Services, both year-over-year and compared to the three months ending just before this quarter, ending in December of 2020.
This quarter’s financial results showed iPhone bringing in $65,597 million USD. The same quarter had Mac net sales at $8,675 million and iPad had net sales of $8,435. Net sales for the quarter for Wearables, Home, and Accessories were $12,971 million, while Services rang up to $15,761 million.
This same quarter last year showed Apple with $55,957 million in net sales for iPhone, $7,160 million for Mac, and $5,977 million for iPad. Wearables, Home, and Accessories had a net sales of $10,101 million for the quarter, and Services racked up $12,715 million.
While Apple brought in a $91,819 million in net sales for this quarter last year, this year’s net sales ramped up to $111,439 million. Almost impossibly, Apple had the same net sales in this quarter last year as it did for their quarter that ended in September of 2020. Both net sales came in at $91,819 million USD.
The rise VS this quarter last year might’ve been expected, given the rise of COVID-19, but remember: This quarter’s results end in December of 2020. As such, this same quarter last year is Apple’s three months that end in December of 2019. That’s right up to but not including the point at which COVID-19 forced the world into quarantine. Once we see Apple’s next earnings report (in another three months), we’ll REALLY start to see some bang-up growth year-over-year.
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