Is Samsung Leaving Oculus To Launch Its Own VR Platform?

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Facebook Inc. is taking another stab at turning its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset into a mass-market phenomenon. Later this year, the company plans to unveil a cheaper, wireless device that the company is betting will popularize VR the way Apple did the smartphone.

Facebook’s new headset is designed to bridge the gap — a device that will sell for as little as $200 and need not be tethered to a PC or phone, according to people familiar with its development. It will ship next year and represent an entirely new category.

That explains Monday’s drastic cut of Oculus Rift prices.

Code-named “Pacific,” the device resembles a more compact version of the Rift and will be lighter than Samsung’s Gear VR headset, one of the people said. The device’s design and features aren’t finalized and could still change, but the idea is that someone will be able to pull the headset out of their bag and watch movies on a flight just the way you can now with a phone or tablet.

I actually picked up a Rift and a Gear VR earlier this week. Both have impressed me so far (in a very small amount of use). Rift, in particular, is a nice piece of kit. It’s lighter and more comfortable to wear than its closest competitor, HTC. I’m really curious to see how small and comfortable Facebook-Oculus can make a standalone unit.

Facebook’s new VR handset will ship in 2018 so will miss this year’s holiday shopping season, giving rivals a chance to hit the market first. But the $200 price and Oculus’s reputation among developers could give the gadget an edge with consumers.

I bet that Samsung Exynos VR system will also run Facebook-Oculus’ platform, and it could beat Facebook to market this year (I have no idea). But having covered Samsung through the first decade of the smartphone wars, I wouldn’t put it past them to pivot away from Oculus and launch their own VR store.

And I wouldn’t put it past Facebook to have already nudged them firmly in that direction. Which would be shrewd as hell, right?

1. Buy Oculus

2. License Oculus software and distribution platform to Samsung for Gear VR

3. Let Samsung deal with building hardware to give away to smartphone buyers: It builds your (Oculus platform) install base.

4. Advance the tech enough to build your own consumer-grade headset. Set the price bar super low ahead of time to screw with hardware competitors. Because you can, because you’re Facebook and have all the cash.

5.  Kick Samsung off the Oculus platform. Suddenly, your biggest competitor has no content. None.

6. Run for Preside… j/k

Gurman has a long, solid track record of breaking consumer tech product news, by the way.