In an interview at the HTC U series launch event held in Singapore, HTC President of Global Sales Chia-lin Chang revealed that the company is planning to release a new virtual reality headset before the end of the year.
Chang's announcement of the upcoming device reveals HTC's ongoing transition into a VR company, as its core smartphone business continues to struggle.
HTC Mobile VR Headset In Development
HTC made its way into the virtual reality industry with the HTC Vive, a high-end system that requires to be paired with a powerful and expensive PC for operation. One of the main features of the HTC Vive are its base stations, which contain the Lighthouse tracking system, allowing wearers to plunge themselves into room-scale virtual reality.
However, despite the more powerful capabilities of the HTC Vive, it was outshined in terms of sales by Samsung's Gear VR in 2016. There were 4.5 million units sold of the smartphone-powered Gear VR last year, compared to only 400,000 units for the HTC Vive, with one of the main reasons for the discrepancy said to be the Gear VR's lower price.
Samsung's Gear VR, alongside the recently released Daydream View of Google, function by simply plugging in a compatible smartphone to the headset to launch the virtual reality experience. According to Chang, however, the new device that HTC is working on will not be as simple as "a phone slapped onto a headset."
Not much else is known regarding the mobile VR headset that HTC is working on, but it can be assumed that it will be taking up the space between the smartphone-powered headsets such as Samsung's Gear VR and the high-end systems such as the HTC Vive.
HTC Dives Deeper Into Virtual Reality
As it has allowed many users to dive into the world of virtual reality, HTC now looks like that it is finally admitting that it is a VR company after its struggles with its smartphone business.
HTC disclosed poor financial results for the fourth quarter of 2016, with an operating loss of about $116 million and revenue decreasing by 14 percent to around $722 million. Chairwoman and CEO Cher Wang, however, highlighted the company's virtual reality business in what was otherwise a dismal quarter for HTC.
As to what the mobile VR headset that HTC is planning would look like, it could be a headset that comes with a built-in processor to drop the requirement of being connected to a smartphone or a PC but retaining compatibility with smartphones such as the U Ultra for additional functions such as being a controller. It could also still follow the setup of other mobile VR headsets that is powered by a smartphone, but with additional technology installed for a better virtual reality experience than what the Samsung Gear VR can offer.
We will never know for sure until HTC makes an announcement, which should be coming in the next several months.