The more I learn about Magic Leap One headset, the more I am impressed with its capabilities and ability to deliver great mixed reality experiences. Experiences that are fundamentally different than anything we’ve experienced on any other platform before.
Some things worry me though and it comes to the ability to attract many developers to develop for this platform. To make the platform appeal to developers, the platform has to have a large player base to start with. On the other hand, for the platform to be worthwhile, it needs to have good apps. It might not take a lot of apps to sell a platform, some platforms do it with just a few great titles (e.g. Nintendo Switch).
Having said that, we need to take the competition into account. When Apple or Samsung if and will come with their own Mixed Reality headset, they will immediately have a competitive advantage. We can expect those headsets to run alongside their mobile devices. You might think it’s a disadvantage, but you also need to consider that Magic Leap also has a required external computing device. Magic Leap might have some advanced technologies and some unique patent technologies that can give it an advantage. However, this might not give it such a big advantage over let’s say Apple. We’ve already seen that pricing, accessibility, and branding are even more important. A good example of that was how Google Tango, where the cost of implementation and implications on the device external design made it less attractive option compared to Apple’s. Eventually, in March 2018 Google shut down Project Tango in favor of AR Core.
Apple and Samsung already have a large user base who uses their phone. This is the reason why Samsung had an almost complete dominance over the mobile VR market with its Gear VR, prior to Android getting into the market with its Daydream platform.
It’s hard to see Apple or Samsung making a Mixed Reality headset that requires another external computing device where it can take advantage of the advanced hardware of high-end devices that are already out in the market. There might be an advantage of having a propriety computing device like Magic Leap has than using a high-end mobile device.
One of them is of course that when you by the Magic Leap, you don’t need to buy a high-end phone that supports it which add an additional cost. It’s a complete platform straight from the box.
Also having a proprietary computing device means that it was built from the ground up for that platform and optimized for the best experience. They might have chipsets that are optimized for spatial computation and other advanced computations that can benefit from a proprietary hardware. This something that we need to take into account.
I don’t think that Magic Leap want to be “the next HoloLens”, a great product but with such high cost that only few can afford. If you are a developer, would target a platform with only thousands of users or one with potentially hundreds of millions?
Magic Leap has a long list of investors, including Google, Temasek Holdings, Alibaba, Axel Springer and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Funds as their lead investors. With such huge support from so many companies, including Google and Alibaba, we can be quite sure this mixed reality platform will be integrated into their own businesses in one way or another.
Magic Leap partnered with various companies so users who get the headset will have a wide variety of high-quality apps and games to experience. Some of them might be bundled with the headset itself. We can expect collaboration with companies across all verticals, including social, music, video, gaming, collaboration, education, wellness, entertainment, news, art, productivity, fashion, sport, enterprise and more.
This collaboration with 3rd parties to deliver great experiences is not less important than having a great hardware. Great hardware is just the hardware, the average user who is going to use the Magic Leap One doesn’t care about the technology, he or she cares about the experiences. Of course, demonstrating its hardware capabilities is great, but it can be great only if demonstrated within a certain application.
Like mobile devices nowadays, it’s all about the great apps. Magic Leap needs to make sure this is well covered and to have a large selection of apps to make a purchase worthwhile.
I’m still interested to see how Magic Leap will differentiate itself from the competition, whether it’s just with technological advantage or great partnerships or whether it has other surprises up its sleeves.
If I had to buy the Magic Leap One, I would definitely want to know that it has a large variety of apps to start with, and it’s somewhat affordable, so other people can afford it and I can play and collaborate with them. I don’t own the HoloLens for that exact reasons.
This is something that Magic Leap’s marketing department will have to think about and I’m pretty sure there are already plans set up for that. Whether Magic Leap will turn out to be a success, only time will tell.
What do you think?