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To realize its VR dreams, Facebook needs to kill what Oculus has built – TechCrunch



Mark Zuckerberg has poured billions into his virtual reality dream, a new platform that Facebook owns.

Facebook bought Oculus and has spent the last five years killing what it was and reinventing it as a Facebook-scale company. It has dumped most of the co-founders, brought in Zuck loyalists to take over the most important decisions and shifted towards accessibility over appeasing the company’s early supporters.

Facebook’s latest release is the realization of all that.

The company’s Quest product, which they released on Tuesday, offers a streamlined version of high-end virtual reality while leveraging time-honed software to make the process of getting up-and-running immeasurably easier. It’s probably the best VR product that’s been built yet, and one that has the mainstream firmly in view.

Facebook needs to lean in on the new device and move away from what got it there.

With past VR releases, there’s always been a key technology to blame or a key feature that was missing, but if the Oculus Quest fails, Facebook may just have to consider that the whole product category doesn’t hold the mass appeal it hoped for. Of more immediate concern should be why they’re maintaining such a differentiated product line in in pursuit of the mainstream when the Quest is largely alone in appealing to the mainstream customer that they actually want.

As the closing of the Oculus acquisition approaches its fifth birthday, one wonders where Facebook’s 10-year-plan for virtual reality begins to show some signs of critical success. Even as the company has built up a niche group of VR gamers and shipped millions of headsets, the company is still grappling with coaxing a mass audience and recouping what it’s invested.

Whether or not the Quest succeeds, you can only wonder how they’ll aim to streamline their current product line as the blank checks from Facebook start running out.

The underpowered $199 Go proved to be a nice piece of hardware for the price, but the year-old system is still ultimately a very forgettable introduction to the medium for new users. How much does Oculus gain from growing the user base of a product that’s best use case is watching Netflix in isolation? Samsung and Oculus made such a concerted push with the Gear VR, throwing free headsets at users, but ultimately developers aren’t investing in these platforms and that’s only going to grow more true.

Meanwhile the company’s bread-and-butter PC-based headset line could have a murky future as well. The latest Rift S which also launched this week to lesser fanfare is basically a lateral move for Oculus and suggests that the company likely isn’t willing to push boundaries on the high-end while it aims to gain its footing in the mainstream. Whether the Quest succeeds or fails, I would not be surprised to see the company fade the high-end into its standalone line over time. The PC will always drive the most high-end experiences, but it’s no place to stake a platform that still needs to prove itself.

Maintaining three distinct product lines isn’t just expensive from a hardware R&D point-of-view, it vastly complicates the company’s relationship with the developers its backing to build stuff that’s worth playing. The economics for VR game developers is already dodgy at best, if Oculus has determined that PC isn’t somewhere it wants to innovate with hardware it should just let the product class run its course and prioritize using the latest mobile chipsets in future standalone releases.

Oculus is a large org, but it’s more redundant than a company setting the stage for a new platform can afford to be. Facing its prolonged degradation, Nintendo reshaped its mobile and home consoles into a single product. Oculus needs to do the same, and they already have.

In 2014, Facebook bought a company that was promising to shape the future of VR by kickstarting it. Appealing to the high-end earned it millions of passionate early users on PC and millions of mobile users that gained an early taste of the platform. As Facebook has absorbed Oculus deeper into its org structure and promoted its own vision for creating a mass audience, the company has created something great with the Quest, perhaps something worth killing the product lines that got it there.

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Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen won’t have a dedicated slot



Samsung will be unveiling its most powerful Galaxy in two weeks but that won’t be a smartphone as some might have hoped. Samsung’s most powerful Galaxy phone, however, might come earlier in July but it’s already proving to be a mixed bag. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will, of course, be interesting because of its expected support for the S Pen but it might not have a silo similar to the Galaxy Note it will replace this year.

The story will almost be like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the first in the Galaxy S series to support the Wacom-powered Samsung stylus. It didn’t have a slot inside the phone to stash the S Pen inside and had to be bought separately. Samsung recommended some cases for making sure the S Pen didn’t get lost, something it will reportedly do with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

According to the report hailing from South Korea, Samsung was still trying to make room for the S Pen inside the Galaxy Z Fold 3 until last month. It finally decided against it for two reasons. One is to ensure that the foldable phone will be as water and dust resistant as possible. This is definitely critical considering how the first Galaxy Fold easily broke when the minutest of particles entered its hinges.

The other reason might come as a disappointment, though, as Samsung reportedly ran out of space for the S Pen silo inside the phone. That’s despite rumors that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will have a smaller battery and a smaller internal screen than its predecessor. Hopefully, we’ll find out the reason for that in three months.

Samsung will reportedly offer a specialized case for keeping the S Pen, which would probably be a good idea anyway to protect the Galaxy Z Fold 3. That said, it might also ruin the otherwise luxurious appearance of the Galaxy Z Fold 3, at least based on renders, but it at least gives people the option of how they want to use the device.

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Chrome 90 makes HTTPS the default, brings AV1 codec for video chats



The Web has definitely become a very different place compared to just a few years ago. Security has always been a consideration but never has it been more critical than these days when more people work at home with less than secure Internet connections. That same change in work situations has bumped up the need for WebRTC, a technology that already existed long before video conferencing was hip. Addressing both those concerns, Google is releasing Chrome 90 in an attempt to make working for home more secure and less stressful.

Google has been crusading around HTTPS or HTTP Secure even before the current pandemic hit. Using its clout as the maker of the world’s most used web browser (something that raises anticompetitive red flags), Google has been pushing site owners to use HTTPS by favoring the encrypted connection when using Chrome. As of Chrome 90, any address entered into the browser’s address bar will automatically default to HTTPS unless you specify the protocol explicitly or are working on localhost.

Beyond just being more secure, Google argues that this change of default behavior also has improvements in web page loading speed. That’s because many sites redirect HTTP to HTTPS, which takes up some time. Connecting to HTTPS directly can save a few seconds that eventually add up.

Chrome 90 also brings the AV1 encoder to the desktop web browser, the same codec used by Netflix for better video compression on mobile. In this case, however, AV1 is being used to optimize WebRTC or the Web Real-Time Communication technology which is used for video chats using web browsers like Chrome.

The latest version of Chrome also brings user-visible changes, particularly to the Reading List feature and searching in Tab Groups. What may be its most controversial change, however, is related to Google’s Privacy Sandbox, particularly the much-criticized FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) experiment to replace third-party tracking cookies.

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Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2 teardown reveals beautiful complexity



Some smartphones are getting more interesting again after the market has seemingly plateaued in design and innovation. Leave it to gaming smartphones, however, to really take the cake when it comes to pushing the envelope not just in terms of performance but also in design. After the very first ASUS ROG Phone, it is perhaps Lenovo’s latest Legion Phone Duel 2 that has the most peculiar quirks and features. And while it didn’t survive the durability test, JerryRigEverything’s teardown reveals just how unique the phone is on the inside.

The Legion Phone Duel 2 is already unique on the outside due to a design that is intended for horizontal (landscape) use. The front-facing camera hides in a popup mechanism off to the side and the rear cameras are located in the middle, safe from fingers when playing games. Unfortunately, that unique design, including the three-part segments of the backplate, makes traditional teardown processes almost impossible.

Fortunately, YouTuber Zack Nelson did break the phone apart into three so he was able to skip that and get to the meaty parts almost immediately. The one bump on that journey was the central glass back which, unfortunately, cracked during attempts to slice off the adhesive underneath. Once the backs, yes plural, have been removed, the phone reveals an internal design that may have never been used in any phone, other than the first Lenovo Legion phone, of course.

The inside of the Legion Phone Duel 2 is filled with cables connecting eight different pressure-sensitive areas that can be used for gaming controls, including two beneath the screen. It is also filled with a variety of cooling systems, such as the two fans and a large duct system that carries air between the two fans. It is really impressive that every inch of the phone is crammed with features, including that popup camera step motor that Nelson notes to actually be the most boring part of the phone.

Sadly, all that may have resulted in a structural design that turned out to be more fragile than the most premium-looking high-end phone. Disaster is easy enough to prevent with a case but, when accidents do happen, the Lenovo Legion Phone Duel 2’s design may not make repairs that easy or, more importantly, affordable.

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