May 13, 2021
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Next Up. This week: why almost every VR hardware maker is betting on the enterprise market, and how NBCUniversal wants to use AR to make TV commercials more immersive.
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This was a huge week for VR, with three different companies introducing a total of five different headsets. But you didn't hear all that much cheering from VR fans. That's because most of the announcements were geared toward the enterprise, which is emerging as the one market segment where companies may still have a chance to compete with Facebook.
HTC made the biggest splash this week, announcing two new headsets at its ViveCon event Tuesday. The Vive Pro 2 is positioned as a prosumer device for both business customers and PC VR enthusiasts looking for better visual fidelity, but the Vive Focus 3 is purely a business device, complete with access to a separate app store optimized for corporate use cases and a dedicated telepresence platform.
But there were plenty of other new products for the enterprise VR market too:
Worth noting: All these companies also do consumer VR. Pico even introduced a consumer version of the Neo 3 in China last month. But when it comes to the U.S. market, there seems to be very little appetite to compete with Facebook and its Oculus Quest head-on.
Facebook, meanwhile, isn't ignoring the enterprise either. While primarily focusing on consumers, the company has started to pitch its headsets to the enterprise: For $799, business customers get a Quest 2 with 256GB of storage (normally priced $399) plus one year of free access to the Oculus for Business platform.
For now, Sag's money is on HTC as a winner in enterprise VR. "HTC has the best chance to be competitive in this market," he said. "They do understand business better than anyone else."
"We've seen a decade of change in the past year." Sonos CEO Patrick Spence, during the company's latest earnings call, talking about movies shifting from theaters to streaming, which benefits the company's home theater speaker business.
"Wow. House prices are insane." Tirias Research principal analyst Kevin Krewell responding to the news that Roku paid $97.8 million in cash for the "This Old House" franchise.
DevOps and the Alternative Cloud provides insight into the capabilities and priorities developers expect from cloud infrastructure providers. In a market where hyperscalers dominate, a small band of alternative cloud providers — which includes DigitalOcean, Hetzner, Linode, and OVHcloud — is having an outsized impact.
Get ready for products you see in TV ads to appear in your living room: NBCUniversal unveiled a new ad product called @Homeshopping on Thursday that allows marketers to use augmented reality to add interactivity to their ads.
The new ad format uses QR codes to combine TV with AR: Consumers are encouraged to scan a code with their phone, which then directs them to a website that loads 3D models of advertised products into a camera view of their living room.
Actually, NBCUniversal is leaning into QR codes. It started using them on TV a couple of months ago to redirect consumers to an ecommerce website without AR elements. NBCUniversal advertising and partnerships CMO Josh Feldman told me that this move was initially met with skepticism: Weren't QR codes complicated and gimmicky?
But NBCUniversal isn't alone in making ads more interactive using AR. Roku debuted an AR ad during March Madness, but required consumers to use Snapchat to access additional content. @Homeshopping instead uses WebXR for a native AR integration that works without any third-party apps.
NBCUniversal execs weren't able to tell me when we may see the first AR ads in the wild, but hinted that a launch may not be too far off.
My colleague Biz Carson sent me a slide from Bird's investor presentation in which the scooter startup compares itself to Netflix because … well, both companies are supposed to be what Bird calls "category creators." Which is a bit like comparing yourself to Oprah because you also enjoy giving people gifts. Anyway, we probably all want to be like Bird: a company that burned through $600 million over the past two years, but projects that its 2022 revenue will be twice as much as all the money the company hasn't made this year yet. And if all fails, Netflix can still make a documentary about it, Fyre Festival-style.
Thanks for reading — see you next week!