The Oculus event marks a milestone for the company and for its owner Facebook. While its Oculus Samsung Gear VR viewer for Samsung smartphones has been on the market awhile, it has been limited to people who have a couple specific models of smartphone and also to very limited amounts of VR content, generally of a much lower quality than will soon be possible. Today’s 1:00 pm ET event marks the first time Oculus has told the world exactly what kind of experience to expect from its flagship PC-connected device, which we hope will emerge later this year.
Virtual Reality and its cousin Augmented Reality (which allows a user to see what is around them in the real world, but overlays it with virtual content) are widely believed to represent one of the major new thrusts in computing and entertainment. The interfaces of the future, many including me believe, will be much more immersive than the rectangles of glass we carry around and compulsively lean towards while we walk around the streets of the world. That interface for all its glories is transitional, and in many ways inconvenient.
The Apple Watch is one attempt to remedy some of the weaknesses of the smartphone interface, but as I say, in the future we will see something much more immersive, probably built into our glasses or other wearable devices. Oculus is one of several leading players aiming to develop those interfaces. Mark Zuckerberg believes that VR is likely to be the next interface after the smartphone. Microsoft is deeply committed to its own Hololens technology, coming out later this year as well. And a Hololens competitor called Magic Leap continues to keep its product plans secret, but its many hundreds of millions of investment money is likely to result in something impressive very soon.
This new Oculus device announced today will target gamers—a huge segment of the market that has a proven willingness to spend lots of money on state-of-the-art tech. We’ll hear a lot about how gamers can benefit from this immersive environment. But this is only a stalking horse for related devices that will go to all of us. … This will happen sooner rather than later, and the rapid progress of Oculus will be a major factor.
As for Shopify and Facebook, the migration of purchasing capabilities into Facebook’s newsfeed and overall user experience is an inevitable convergence that Facebook has been attempting for some time to get right. This new project is again just a beta test, and there’s no assurance that Shopify will be the only or even the main partner for Facebook in-feed purchasing as time progresses. But Shopify has the lead in this area with partnerships with many retailers.
Facebook is building an increasingly walled garden, and whether you call it that or not, they continue to have the most detailed profile information about consumers of any company in the world, and do so at massive global scale. So advertising is steadily migrating into the Facebook universe as brands and marketers aim to more effectively spend their money on the exact people likely to respond. To add purchasing capabilities to that will be more convenient for the users and more lucrative for the companies. And if it works it will further demonstrate the effectiveness of Facebook as an advertising and commercial landscape. We just saw this week in a Reuters report that now 51 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenues are coming from outside the U.S., a major milestone. So now Facebook is a global advertising juggernaut and aiming to become a sales juggernaut as well. It’s been said this is against Pinterest and Google, but I think eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba have to pay very close attention. They could be hurt if this works, which in one form or another, it probably will.