LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS SHANGHAI: Taiwanese device maker HTC launched a consortium that pulls together 28 of the world s largest VC firms, with a focus on virtual reality (VR), setting aside $10 billion of investible capital.
Alvin Graylin, president of HTC China, said the VR VC Alliance will invest in the future of VR and set the direction of where VR is going. Think about what $10 billion can do for this industry. Graylin, speaking at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, said VR will be the next disruptor after the PC and mobile phone. It took just five years for smartphones to surpass the total unit sales of PC, but now the smartphone industry is facing stagnating sales and falling margins.
VR is going to take over, and I predict it will last longer than nine years. It s going to replace every screen, and users will enjoy a different way to experience things like live events, the exec said.
But he also noted that you need great content. HTC has released more than 300 titles for its Vive VR hardware, more than rivals Samsung and Oculus. Two months ago, HTC launched its $100 million Vive X fund programme1, designed to jump-start development.
He said it has already received 1,200 applications from companies around the world, with half coming from China.
Asked about reports that it plans to spin off its VR group2, he said the HTC board recently approved an independent company to run the Vive business, and it is open to outside investment at a time when it makes sense.
The modular G51 succeeded in getting LG Electronics a thumbs up for bravery and innovation. It was a radical decision to launch a modular phone — “partly” modular to be precise — in a saturated market where even leaders Apple and Samsung are scrapping to protect their bottom line.
But it seems, sadly, the mobile business will see another decline in its bottom line for the second quarter of the year. According to company insiders, LG has, up to now, only sold half of what it expected from the G5 initially. Its older models — the G4 and the V10 — despite the dropping of prices, have also missed the mark on projected sales targets both in the US and South Korea.
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Analysts, who initially praised the G5 and expected it to be the firm’s best selling phone2, have all now downgraded their expectations. Hana Financial Investment, in a note to clients, said it lowered expect sales of the G5 for the second quarter to 2.5 million from its initial 3 million. For the year, the phone will also sell 7 million, not the 9 million it projected. The mobile business will post an operating loss of 129.9 billion won ($112 million), and fail to turn to the black, it said.
The pressure is heavy. Much is riding on the V series, LG’s answer to Samsung’s Note series that will be launched in the second half of the year. According to company insiders, the V series will likely not go modular, despite president Juno Cho telling reporters earlier that the modular concept will continue for future phones.3 Though he could mean the G6, a non-modular V series phone will seriously put the concept’s future in doubt. LG tried hardware-tweaking before the G5. For the G4, it adopted a leather back cover. It retained removable battery — which Samsung gave up. Despite the many “thank yous” from die-hard fans of the removable battery feature and the leather back cover, sales did not back up the efforts.
The reality is the smartphone business is no longer hardware driven, but idea driven. If Samsung indeed launches foldable phones next year as rumour suggests, as ZDNet points out, finding the use case will be the real innovation4. Hardware is there to help the idea. The right amount of hardware innovation — if hardware is everything, how do you explain Apple? — and an idea, or concept, that is practical and can give consumers long-lasting benefits seems more the key than drop-my-jaw radicalism in innovation. It will be a long time before LG can catch up in software to Apple — Cupertino’s biggest strength is that its software is not necessarily flashy or eye-grabbing, but that it is there to serve a purpose: to make it easier for consumers to use their iPhones.
LG has the heft to continue on smartphones despite its losses. Its home appliance business continues to make sure the firm’s overall bottom line remains in the black. It is the second-largest vendor of TVs in the world, and arguably the world’s number one in terms of technology. The firm’s affiliates LG Display and LG Chem boast world-class technology from bendable screens to long-lasting batteries. And LG has no intention of backing out of the mobile business.
According to company insiders, the leadership considers it a matter of pride to continue, and despite market setbacks, the confidence is still there. Their pride is understandable, because in the feature phone age, LG stood an arm’s-length from rivals such as Samsung, Nokia, and Motorola. The hardware prowess is there. And from my personal experience, there are some wonderfully smart people in LG. What they need is an organisational restructuring that backs up their ideas, putting them atop their world-class hardware.
Whether it be in AR or VR, LG can bide their time so that when the market is ripe, they can infuse its mobile business with rising new technology that will not make their years of efforts in vain.
- ^ The modular G5 (www.zdnet.com)
- ^ who initially praised the G5 and expected it to be the firm’s best selling phone (www.zdnet.com)
- ^ president Juno Cho telling reporters earlier that the modular concept will continue for future phones. (www.zdnet.com)
- ^ as ZDNet points out, finding the use case will be the real innovation (www.zdnet.com)
US President Obama has finally ditched his iconic BlackBerry phones, but the smartphone replacement awarded to him is less ‘smart’ than you’d think.
BlackBerry1 — formerly RIM — was once top of the pile when it came to business and government users keen on securing their mobile devices and content stored within. However, times have changed, and the company is now fighting against rivals including Silent Circle and ramped-up Android smartphones based on security, including Samsung’s Knox, to stay relevant in today’s enterprise market. One of BlackBerry’s major business advocates is US President Obama, who was once constantly seen running around with various BlackBerry models. As one of the few devices approved by use by the US Defense department, the president has been seen of late with BlackBerry Curve 8300 handsets, as well as a BlackBerry Curve 8900.
However, it seems that BlackBerry has lost its lustre. In a recent appearance on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the US leader revealed3 that the BlackBerry has finally been shown the door in favor of a new smartphone.
For Obama, however, it may not be the high-tech upgrade he wanted. In the interest of security, the unnamed but “state-of-the-art” smartphone has been dumbed down to the point that all the basic features we take for granted — such as taking photos, loading and playing music or sending texts, have been barred by the president’s security team. You also have to wonder whether you can call the BlackBerry replacement a ‘smartphone’ at all since it will also not let the president make a phone call.
Obama says that when he sees the first lady and his daughters using their mobile devices — with all the features that come with them — he cannot help but be jealous.
“Does your three-year-old have one of those play phones?,” Obama asked Fallon. “It’s got, like, the stickers on it. And you mime making phone calls to your imaginary friend? That’s the phone I’ve got.”
The new smartphone may be a poor substitute, but as the end to his presidential term loom closer, Obama will soon be able to go back to being the “high-tech guy” he was before entering the White House.
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The US-based Qualcomm will retain some of its existing contract with Apple. Stacy Rasgon at Sanford C estimates that Qualcomm gets about $15 per phone from Apple, or about $3.47 billion in Apple s fiscal 2015. Intel will supply its modem chips to Apple iPhones used on AT&T Inc s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets. Qualcomm will be supplying chips to Apple iPhones sold in China, and iPhones on Verizon Communications Inc s network.
Qualcomm chief executive officer Steve Mollenkopf, on an earnings call in April, said he was assuming that a major customer would switch to multiple suppliers. The good news is that Qualcomm has retained China region, a major focus area for the US technology company. The mobile chip deal with Apple represents the first major win for an Intel mobile chip program that had struggled for relevance and racked up operating losses.
While Qualcomm is losing some orders, it s retaining a major chunk of Apple s business, offsetting concern that one of its largest customers would drop it completely. AT&T will sell an estimated 22 million iPhones this year and 23 million in 2017, according to Walt Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG. Verizon, which has a slightly smaller iPhone user base, will sell an estimated 21 million iPhones in 2016 and 22 million next year. Apple sold more than 231 million units globally in fiscal 2015. The next version, due for release this fall, is expected to be called iPhone 7.
Intel acquired Infineon s wireless division, which provided the modem in the original iPhone in 2007. Intel lost the chip contract when Apple chose Qualcomm for subsequent versions of the phone that offered high data rates. Intel s chip has failed to show up in any smartphone that has sold in significant numbers and the company has gained less than 1 percent market share. Qualcomm s other major customer is Samsung Electronics which already uses multiple component providers for its phones. Mollenkopf said his company s chip business performance will continue to improve in the second half of 2016.