What’s hot and what’s not at MWC.
VR / AR
- Along with the number of drones, the number of VR units on the stands has fallen substantially compared to last year.
- I think that this is because last year, VR was a novelty that everyone wanted to try but interest has now waned as very little has changed in 12 months.
- I think that this is symptomatic of the limitations that plague VR (see here) and until these limitations are properly addressed, VR will continue to disappoint.
- AR has exactly the same problems with the exception that it has plenty of applications in the enterprise where the content, comfort and price limitations are less important.
- Consequently, those AR companies that are focused on productivity applications are likely to fare better in the short term.
- I would steer clear of any investment dependent on VR for now, and HTC in particular.
Jolla – Last man standing
- Jolla has shown remarkable resilience to the difficult conditions that have caused its competitors to fall by the wayside.
- I think Sailfish is now the only really viable alternative to Android.
- Furthermore, the market environment has become far more favourable with both Russia and China far less willing to allow US controlled software into their networks than they were 3 or 4 years ago.
- Russia has certified Sailfish as an approved OS for state owned enterprises which Jolla is now actively trying to leverage into China.
- There, it has announced the creation of the Sailfish China Consortium which aims to take the core Sailfish OS, and adapt it for Chinese enterprises that wish to have software over which they have full control.
- The consortium has three Chinese entities that have expressed an interest in joining.
- It has also got some interest from Latin America but it is still quite early days.
- This creates credibility for Jolla and raises the potential for Jolla to get some revenues in the door in order to keep the ship afloat.
- It is still early days but the dark days of 2016, when the ship looked like it was holed below the waterline look to be behind it.
- Artificial Intelligence has made a big appearance at the show this year but still most companies demonstrating it do not seem to have absorbed what AI really is.
- There are many robots from Asia that are billed as AI but can only respond to a series of pre-programmed responses.
- In a similar vein, many companies are touting their service or app as being driven by AI but when one looks under the hood one finds little more than advanced statistics.
- AI is currently the realm of the big companies who can afford the very high salaries that AI engineers can now demand and have the balance sheet to continue investing for a long period of time.
- The exception is tiny start-ups that have come out of universities but already these companies are very hot property.
- I have no doubt that AI will be a major differentiator and driver of the digital mobile ecosystem over the next 10 years, but developing AI is still an incredibly difficult, time consuming and expensive task.
- In AI, I continue to look for those that are developing:
- Firstly: the ability to train AIs using much less data than today,
- Secondly: the creation of an AI that can take what it has learned from one task and apply it to another and
- Thirdly: the creation of AI that can build its own models rather than relying on humans to do it.
- I consider fixing these problems as essential to fulfilling the dreams that so many companies effusively discuss but have no idea how they will fulfill. .