IFA, IBC, VR and 8K Musings

The early part of the week saw us still at IFA and we have shorter issues this week as we have also been working on the IFA special report, which will be out early next week, just before we get off to IBC. While the IFA event is a bit of a press scrum, with thousands of approved media, while IBC has a restricted press corps. That means that lots and lots of PRs from IBC chase us down for meetings at IBC, while at IFA, most of the initiative to set up meetings has to be from the journalist.

In looking at the issues this week, there is a report of poor HMD sales for VR in Q2 and it almost looked to me as though the report was based on my editorial last month, when I talked about the challenges for VR in getting through the ‘hype curve’. (VR on the Hype Curve) I wrote that article before I went to Siggraph and before I had seen the StarVR One headset and the Nvidia Turing GPU which, combined, really change the game for VR in professional applications – and a pointer to where VR will be for consumers, later.
At IFA, there wasn’t a great deal of VR or AR on display. We spotted a few demos and there were often short queues to try them – nothing like the very long queues at CES in 2016 and 2017. That suggests that the interest in VR from consumers is really just curiosity. Once you have tried it, it seems, there is less interest in trying it again. Certainly, consumer brands don’t seem very interested although Acer (which owns StarVR, these days) mentioned the technology and announced a new version of its Windows Mixed Reality headset.

Of course, one of the key issues at IFA was 8K, a nonsense at this time, if there ever was one. There is no content and Samsung even admitted to us that because it doesn’t have interfaces that can run 8K at reasonable frame rates, at some point in the future, consumers buying the firm’s 8K TV would have to upgrade their connection box. Although he suggested that the boxes would be available for upgrade, I remember when Samsung said that it would make its SmartTVs upgradeable with modules, but then discontinued the approach as it found so few consumers actually did it. As he was explaining about the upgrade, the Samsung rep that I was talking to was interrogated (attacked is probably a slightly too strong word) by a Samsung buyer who had been disappointed in the past by Samsung’s decisions on upgrades.

Really, I understand why Samsung and Sharp (in particular) feel that they need to push 8K (see my article from last year (8K is closer than you think). Although Sharp, under the aggressive ownership of Foxconn, has been growing its global market share (especially in China), Samsung has been losing share. At IFA, I heard that Samsung’s share of the market on a value basis has dropped from over 40% to below 30% over the last couple of years as OLEDs have taken business away in the premium segment of the market. So Samsung has to do everything it can to try to hit back. However, selling people a product that really has little or no content support, nor real value, is liable to hurt the brand in the longer term, I think (although Samsung’s ability to maintain its brand despite problems is amazing!).

Anyway, there is lots still to be done on our full IFA report, so I had better press on!