News You might have missed: Week of September 29th, 2017

Samsung Mixed Reality Headset

Samsung is said to be the latest vendor to release a Mixed Reality headset supporting Windows 10. Earlier in the year, at Microsoft Build, we had seen units from Acer, Asus, HP, Dell and Lenovo all bringing to market headsets between $299 and $450 depending on whether the Windows Controllers are included in the price. Samsung is said to be presenting this new headset at an event in San Francisco on October 3.

Via THE VERGE

  • If true, this is interesting as it expands Samsung’s reach into VR – say what you will but Mixed Reality today is VR – up in price from the Galaxy Gear VR, which has done a lot to help consumers appreciate what VR is, but is unlikely to offer a more sophisticated experience.
  • The problem for Samsung is how to price the headset. Too high and consumers will expect the same performance they can get from the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. Too low and margins will be tight, as these headsets have much more tech than Gear VR
  • Samsung’s big advantage here is the brand. Because consumers know Gear VR and all the different VR experiences Samsung has built-in stores and malls across many countries, they know they can trust the brand. The same cannot be said about PC manufacturers
  • Another advantage Samsung might have is its screens. While the spec for these headsets is set, I would image there is room to differentiate a little, and Samsung could leverage its superior screen technology.
  • Considering these headsets require a PC, not a powerful one such as the HTC Vive and Oculus but a PC that is not on the market yet, I will be curious to hear if Samsung has one coming soon. Samsung, of course, could update the Galaxy Book making it compatible with the Mixed Reality specifications.

Apple Music in the Eyes of Jimmy Iovine

A fascinating interview that has Iovine do many things from picking holes at a Goldman Sachs report on the future of streaming revenue to pointing out the need to think out of the box to make up for a change in audience.

Via billboard

  • I agree with Iovine that driving revenues requires more than expanding the catalog. As the audience ages part of the music that we might appreciate will become irrelevant, just ask my 9-year-old who the Beatles are.
  • Diversifying content under the same subscription is a smart move. Video is huge with Gen Z which means they will more likely watch a video of a song than listen to it. To this very point, Iovine underlines the growth of YouTube as a threat that Goldman Sachs does not consider when looking at the future opportunity of streaming.
  • Another suggestion Iovine makes is to create more of a platform for artists, both to create new music but also to create more of a link with the audience. Apple has tried the social avenue before with the ability for listeners to follow their favorite artists but engagement has been low.
  • The jury on Carpool Karaoke is still out. A blend of entertainment and artist connection it seems to have lost the spontaneity that the original series had, at least for me.
  • Iovine also highlights the cost of running a streaming media company like Spotify. He mentions tight margins due to rising costs. Yet what he is suggesting is not cheap. Only looking at those Carpool Karaoke episodes, you can tell production costs are not negligible. Of course, in the big scheme of things these costs are peanuts compared to the TV products Apple is contemplating to be competitive with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.

Is Google about to launch an Ultra Pixel?

Based on some information YouTuber Arin Maini posted on Thursday, there are now speculations that on top of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL that was leaked earlier this month, Google might also have an iPhone X equivalent called Ultra Pixel. Key features: an edge to edge display, a new fingerprint scanner possibly under the screen and a new UI called Fluid that will require no digital or mechanical buttons.

Via Business Insiders

  • The content that was provided by an unverified source seems a little sketchy to me. While one of the slides provided shows three devices, the slide with the actual name Ultra Pixel shows the name pixel with a lower P. This would be a departure from previous names. It could be that Ultra pixel is a screen technology instead.
  • Fluid is a name we have heard before at Google i/o as part of Android O. Fluid Experiences were described as UI features that help users accomplish more on their phone. Picture-in-Picture or Notification Dots are examples of such features.
  • What if, this is all true? Well, Google is trying to capture the high-end of the Android market with Pixel as well as attract iPhone owners and stop churn to iOS so it could be that it is going all in with a super high-end device. Considering the price point, however, the direct channel will have very limited impact on sales as consumers willing to pay $900 or so outright are very few.
  • If Ultra Pixel does exist, then Samsung should be the first being concerned as long as Google is planning on widening distribution.
  • It is easy as it is to compare iPhone X to a possible Ultra Pixel and think they are offering the same opportunity. To understand the appeal of such a product one has to look at the opportunity in the market rather than the similarity of the hardware. Apple as a vast customer base with very different users from a healthy power-user base, to a broader high-end and then a more mass market base. So, while there is some overlap in the current iPhone offering, the models speak to different users. With Google Pixel we are not quite there yet. An Ultra Pixel would, of course, offer an upgrade path to current Pixel owners but overall the addressable market for the three products is not too dissimilar which would mean Google will compete with itself.

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Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

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