iAsk: Will HTC rise in VR after lost in Mobile?

HTC is now 'all-in VR' after selling its smart phone business to Google. Earlier this year on CES in Las Vegas, Gloria Ai, founder of iAsk Media, interviewed the China President of HTC, Alvin Wang (Chinese name: WANG Conggqing) with the transformation of HTC from mobile phone to VR.

In 2009, the release of 'Avatar' announced that the film industry has entered the era of 3D. Ten years later, the next technology to subvert the film industry seems to appear. A sci-fi movie 'Ready Player One' created by pure VR elements has brought the world’s attention to the application of this new technology Virtual Reality. Spielberg uses virtual reality to depict us a future scenario. When the environmental damage has exhausted human beings, the emergence of a virtual 'oasis system' provides people with a soul’s harbor from the world.

Is this really what the future looks like? Perhaps we can imagine the outline of the movie world, but you would not imagine that the VR scene and content in the movie are all created by HTC, the company that once dominated the smart phone industry. From the second place among global smart phone manufacturers to falling out of the top ten, HTC was forced to sell its smart phone business to Google after nine consecutive quarters of losses in less than six years.

It is also in this 'cruel' reality that HTC has shifted its business focus to virtual reality. And the person who helped HTC to walk the path of nirvana is Alvin Wang, who has studied the field of science and technology for more than 20 years. Gloria Ai will take you to talk with him about the future of virtual reality.

Is 'All in VR' the Only Way Out for HTC?

In 2017, twenty years after its establishment, HTC signed an agreement with Google and officially sold its mobile ODM business, only retaining its own mobile phone brand. This means that HTC, which used to be a dominating company in the beginning of the smart phone era, has failed in a new round of market competition.

Since then, the tag on HTC is no longer just a 'mobile phone company', but a more distinctive label 'VR'.

As the strategy of 'All in AI' proposed by Baidu, HTC proposed 'All in VR'and chose to bet on VR. Since March 2015, in collaboration with game company Valve, HTC launched the headset VR device HTC Vive and officially announced the entry of VR field. After that, HTC has been hoping to use this new technology to help company turn around.

But is this really a wise choice for the future? At the 2018 CES, HTC Vive Focus brought by Alvin Wang can give some answers.

"This is our latest all-in-one device. It was announced in China in November last year and officially launched in January this year. It is also the world's first six degrees of freedom VR device." Alvin Wang told iAsk Media. The difference between this first six degrees of freedom VR device and the previous devices is that it allows the user to traverse to a new world, making every move in virtual world feels exactly the same as in the real world. "Put it simply, you can step to a mountain top immediately when you want to climb the mountain; if you want to go to seabed, then put on a helmet, you can dive into the sea; you even can travel to Mars or become a small cell or a big planet. These can be done with just one such device."

Will consumers buy such amazing device? The problem faced by Alvin Wangis still the price.

At the HTC Vive media immersion day in December last year, the staff of HTC Vive had specially rehearsed four mini-dramas before officially declaring the parameters and prices of HTC Vive Focus. They performed the applications of all-in-one device from working conferences, classes, homes, and airplanes. Later, Alvin Wang appeared as a model, holding a white HTC Vive Focus.

After coming to the scene, Alvin Wang published a set of data: 15% of the people can accept all-in-one device of more than 5,000 Yuan, 31% of people can accept an all-in-one machine of 3000-4999 RMB. The price of HTC Vive Focus is 3999 Yuan.

Alvin Wang believes that the current market price of flagship phone equipped with Snapdragon 83 and AMOLED screens is generally more than 4,000 Yuan. Therefore, HTC Vive Focus, which is equipped with the same configuration and priced at RMB 3,999, is "not expensive at all, the price even includes a tax of 17%."

When the flagship product has a certain affinity on the price, the expansion of market share will be out of question. According to official data, HTC Vive's VR Headset products topped the JD.com VR sales list during November 11th, 2017, the double eleven online shopping carnivals.

Gloria Ai: this product is priced at 3999 RMB, it is not a cheap product, what are the highlights that you are most proud of?

Alvin Wang: this is an epoch-making product that allows people to enter the new world, because any behavior and interaction between users are very natural. The previous products could only be seen, there are no interactions with users, they cannot stick their heads in, they could not squat down.

When the Tide Goes Out, Who Is Swimming Naked Wearing Only VR?

As VR industry changes rapidly every day, it is not easy for HTC Vive to keep its leading position in the industry. In particular, as VR becomes the core business of HTC, the burden will become increasingly heavy on Alvin Wang's shoulders.

The reality that cannot be 'virtualized' is that the VR industry itself, in the past year, seems to become not as hot as before. Especially accompanying the development of domestic VR industry since 2014, on the one hand, Microsoft and other international manufacturers are squeezing the market, on the other hand, the original VR manufacturers lack of sales channels in the commercial market, the vertical consumer market is not developed fully.

Under such circumstance, many of the once eye-catching VR companies have gradually returned to calm, and the tide has receded, it can be seen clearly without wearing VR equipment who is swimming naked.

But Alvin Wang still argues for a trend that VR device market at consumer level will usher in a real boom in 2018. Alvin Wang is even suggesting that VR will eventually replace almost all screens, whether it's a movie screen or a phone screen. "Anything that people are exposed to now can be virtualized, and VR will become one of the most dependent technology devices. It is one of the main ways people interact with other people and machines, and that's the future." Of course, Alvin Wang also admitted that this future will take time.

HTC Vive's rise in the current unpopular market is based on the most basic business logic, the product strategy is in line with the market.

A group of data from GFK, a market research group, has injected a dose of strength into Alvin Wang: in 2017, the online market size of China's VR headsets reached 829 million Yuan, up 14% from 2016. The figure is expected to rise to 1.17 billion Yuan by 2018.

This growth is resulted from the original mobile phone VR becoming obsolete and high-end VR head show and VR all-in-one headset market share increasing gradually, and the users' growing willingness to buy VR products at a cost of above 1000 Yuan.

What makes Alvin Wang more confident is the prosperity of the Chinese market. He told iAsk Media, Chinese people now show the fastest response for the acceptance of new technologies than any other countries. Chinese people are more willing to spend money to have access to and use scientific and technological products with values." Moreover, virtual reality has been written into the 13th Five-year National Informatization Plan."

Gloria Ai: What Are the Opportunities for Entrepreneurship in VR Now?

Alvin Wang: at this stage, it is very difficult to do hardware, and the new entrepreneurial enterprises will have to compete with HTC Vive, SONY and Microsoft. But I think it will be valuable to develop content, applications or anything that can be virtualized, because almost every industry in the following five to ten years, will be overturned by virtualization.

Could VR Realize Education Equality?

There is no doubt that HTC Vive is gradually establishing its position in the high-end VR market.

At the same time, unlike the previous mobile phone lines, HTC needs more than just hardware.
Therefore, HTC Vive has provided abundant software ecology, hoping to find new growth points.

For this purpose, HTC Vive draws a large number of partners to work on different aspects, such as platform, content, software, hardware and distribution channels, and has set up a virtual reality industry alliance. Everything is revealing HTC’s ambitions, let HTC Vive become the core of virtual reality industry.

In terms of content, Alvin Wang told iAsk Media no matter what technology, good content is the key to really develop it. "The Internet has developed, because there are a lot of content and a lot of websites; The computer development also requires software and applications. Therefore, every technology should have content to be valuable to people.

And this value, in the eyes of Alvin Wang, is really able to change the human conditions in the future. He thinks the currently popular VR games are the minimum value that VR devices can bring, because it only provides gamers with short-term excitement. The true value of these devices lies in its capability to equalize education, making everyone at any level, even people living in remote rural towns to be able to get into Peking, Tsinghua, Harvard or MIT, to get the best education and engage with best teachers. "It will have a huge impact on us, which is to enhance the overall wisdom of the human race and reduce disputes on earth to a minimum level."

Of course, for the current HTC, it is still far from the stage of 'peace and love', but the positioning of VR devices gives HTC an unexpected bonus.

"An obvious fact is that if you ask parents to spend $3,999 to buy a game console, a lot of people may not want to." Alvin Wang said, "But if you tell them that with this much money, your kids can go to the best schools in the world and have the best teachers in the classroom, I think parents will become more willing."

Gloria Ai: do you think people in the future will spend more time in the virtual world or in the real world?

Alvin Wang: there is a good chance that a large number of people will choose to spend more time in the virtual world.

Gloria Ai: in the future, what kind of world will VR bring?

Alvin Wang: if it is to describe some future 50 years from now, I think it is to achieve a world called utopia. Of course, we have to go through a process, and we're going to use the latest technology to get us to the highest level of efficiency, so that people can reach a higher stage.