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Virtual Reality Optimism Runs Hot, Cool

Last week was a big one in the emerging realm of virtual reality, as over-the-top video juggernaut YouTube introduced long-awaited VR-facing features aimed at bringing the new format to the masses.

Meanwhile, Facebook, a company that hopes to slice off a big piece of the VR pie through its Oculus division, isn’t so sure that virtual reality will become a mainstream consumer phenomenon right away.

But first, YouTube — it’s targeting the VR masses in two ways, with fresh, new VR videos that have been produced from the get-go to provide tantalizing 360-degree views, while also offering a much larger selection of converted flat-screen YouTube videos that deliver a VR-like experience.


The common thread in both is the cheap Google Cardboard viewer, which costs $3 to $20, depending on where one looks, but users still needs to pair the gadget to a much-more-expensive smartphone that is running the actual VR video application.

While YouTube and Google hope this relatively inexpensive way of delivering VR will attract eyeballs by the bucketload, Facebook’s attitude toward the consumer adoption rate of VR is decidedly more tempered.

Speaking last Wednesday (Nov. 4) on Facebook’s Q3 earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he sees VR taking off at about the same speed as early PCs and first-generation smartphones — slow and steady at first.

VR and other new platforms “take a long time to develop,” Zuckerberg acknowledged. “But just to put that in perspective and compare it to the development of previous computing platforms like phones and computers, I think, the first smartphones came out in 2003, and in the first year, I think BlackBerry and Palm Treo were the initial smartphones that came out … I think they each sold in the hundreds of thousands of units.”

Don’t be mistaken — he’s extremely bullish on VR’s future. Granted, he has to be, after shelling out $2 billion to buy Oculus VR in 2014.

And Facebook and Oculus are giving a lot of attention to how VR can be affordable enough for the larger consumer market. While its high-end Oculus Rift headset is slated to ship early next year, the $99 Gear VR mobile headset (with Samsung) will be available this holiday season.


But is VR the next big thing, or the next big bubble? Research firm IHS is keen on the technology and the content ecosystem that will underpin it. Its data shows that 77% of VR funding and M&As in the last two years were related to virtual reality entertainment content.

Further, it sees the global base of VR headsets reaching 38 million by the end of 2020, holding that the market for headsets alone will be worth $2.7 billion by then.

Both Facebook and Google/YouTube appear to be on the right track, as smartphone- based headsets will comprise 64% of the market next year. However, IHS expects the most spending on hardware and content will focus on the high-end of the market, specifically for platforms such as Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and HTC Vive.

— Jeff Baumgartner

The Winner Is Ben Carson As GOP Candidate Leads With Cyber-Secure Site

Information-security training firm Infosec scoped out the websites of the top Republican and Democratic presidential candidates and declared Ben Carson’s to be the most secure.

Here is how they stacked up, and why.

Ben Carson — Grade: A.

Pros: Outsources donation and volunteer services; no store; small attack surface.

Cons: None.

Hilary Clinton — Grade: B.

Pros: Security team; up-to-date software.

Cons: Large attack surface that relies on quickly-built custom applications.

Donald Trump — Grade: B.

Pros: Outsources donation services.

Cons: May be using old software; uses partially secured WordPress site that exposes sign-on page and leaks other information.

Bernie Sanders — Grade: C.

Pros: Outsources donation services.

Cons: Uses unsecured WordPress site that exposes user names and sign-on page.

— John Eggerton

Form Suggests Function: FCC Pours a Wish List Into Disclosure Sheet

The Federal Communications Commission’s sample of the proposed new consumer disclosure form that fixed-broadband providers could use to satisfy their enhanced transparency requirements under the Open Internet Order was something of a wish list of speed and FCC-friendly business models.

The form was produced by the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee and recommended to the commission for adoption.

The online sample (pictured here) features a standalone fee only $5 more than a term contract (prices cited must not be “promotional”); unlimited data allowances, so no overage charges; an average speed of 53 Megabits per second downstream; and an itemized modem “gateway” device lease fee if customers did not choose their own such device.

— John Eggerton