Thanks Anish. Scale is def. important for Unity. However, we should not forget that Unity is actually a pretty old company (founded in 2004). It has built a lot of expertise on game development over this period and has continuously tweaked and improved its platform.
I do think that Unity can go on the route of WordPress. However, that will depend on how the industry evolves. WordPress had it easy because a single internet/web protocol emerged (HTML), which is used by all browsers (chrome, firefox). Therefore, WordPress did not have to invent tools that could modify pages to render properly on different browsers. Given the nascency of VR, this standard does not exist and very similar to how the smartphone industry has matured (where 2 competing protocols or OS has emerged – iOS and Android), the VR ecosystem can lead to multiple protocols (maybe a protocol led by Facebook and another led by Google). In that scenario, Unity might be able to dominate one protocol but specialized players might come up to dominate the other protocol.
Hi Nicolas. I dont think this would be a winner-take-all platform. Unity is already getting some competition from other VR game engines like Unreal. However, I don’t think that players like EA will enter this space. First, EA already has a contract with Unity in which EA uses Unity for almost all its game development. Second, I think game development companies would like to keep the tools that they develop with themselves rather than share it with competition.
Regarding your 2nd question: I do not think that developers will multi-home. Game development is a complicated process with many moving parts and developers have to invest a lot in understanding the nuances of a particular platform. Therefore, I do not think that they will quickly move to other platforms. A corollary of this is the programming languages: For e.g. most developers stick to a single programming language like Java or C++ rather than using multiple languages.
Hey! I believe that the power lies with content creation platforms or developers. Most VR hardware devices are trying to expand their ecosystem right now rather than closing it because VR is still a nascent technology and consumers do not want to invest $600-800 in buying a VR device if they do not find enough content on that platform. I think a VR hardware player would find it very difficult to attract developers if they close their environment – developers are also looking for platforms where they can build once and deploy multiple times. So developers would prefer an open platform like Unity rather than closed platforms.
Thanks a lot. I believe that their main content creation platform (value capture mechanism # 1) is the most important method. This is their core product which empowers them to also capture value through mechanism # 2 and 3.
Regarding your 2nd question: Unity’s tool was primarily built for games for desktop. I think they might have many legacy features that might not be useful for a VR development environment. Unity also stumbled upon VR by almost accident. Therefore, I think VR focused product development would be a big challenge for them in the future for maintaining the lead.
Thanks for the great post, Adam. Your observation that prisoners are virtually sitting inside their cells with nothing to do and can use VR to learn new skills as well as better understand how to not land in a prison again is fascinating.
Great post Yao! I think you are spot on in predicting the impact that VR can have in retail. VR can help in overcoming the “window-shopping” that consumers do as part of which they will go to a retail store to check out a product but then order it online on Amazon. When we saw the migration of retail from brick and mortar to online, we saw that regional monopolies emerged – like Amazon in US, Alibaba in China etc. Do you think the move from online to VR can lead to intense competition between these regional monopolies?
Hi Lidiya! Thanks for the great post! I think Labster would be very valuable to scientific organizations to teach students. However, one objective of science experiments is to discover new scientific mechanisms (like chemical reactions etc.). I believe Labster is able to run lab simulations because the data about how chemicals react with each other would have been inputted into it. However, this data would not exist for reactions that have not been tried, right? Do you think this would reduce Labster’s utility for laboratories?
Hi Megan! Great post! I really liked your insight that at such an early stage when not much content is available, a subscription model might not make a lot of sense. However, Wevr’s overall value creation is very interesting. I had a few questions around this:
1. What is the value sharing strategy of Wevr? For e.g. how much percentage of the subscription revenue is given to the content creators?
2. Just how Netflix an Amazon Video is getting into content creation, do you think Wevr would also benefit by getting into content creation themselves? Or do you think that VR is still a nascent technology for Wevr to make this investment?
Hi James. Great post! Your observations around the fact that Nvidia might be doomed if they treat “tethered VR” as the core of their business is very true. Mobile VR is becoming more popular. In the future, we can expect an almost entirely streaming world (like Netflix) in which VR content is streamed over Wifi rather than through cables. While Nvidia has certain protective barriers in this space (for e.g. VR content is large in size and not easy to stream; latency should be kept at a bare minimum in VR), I am sure technology will evolve in a way to overcome these barriers.
Thanks Oyku. I do agree with you that Unity might be a good acquisition target for hardware players like Microsoft, Oculus etc. However, I think that Unity should try to be independent for 2 reasons:
1. While VR is a big and growing component of Unity’s business, we should not forget that a lot of revenue comes from normal game development for PCs, smartphones or for gaming consoles (Playstation, Xbox). These areas might deteriorate if Unity is acquired by a VR only hardware manufacturer
2. One big advantage of Unity is that it is hardware platform agnostic i.e. games/ content developed on it can run on Oculus, Vive, Daydream etc. Therefore, no matter which hardware player succeed, Unity will still come up on top. In the current environment, it is still not clear which hardware device will dominate the future (i.e. become the “iPhone” of VR). I think that while that is the case, Unity should continue being a standalone player
Thanks Yezi! Let me answer your question in 2 parts:
1. Barriers to entry for the other applications: I think the biggest barrier is the demand for other applications. Gaming is a well established industry with a dedicated fan base and VR immersion is something that aligns well with gaming. Many “VR devices” were introduced earlier in the 1990s and those focused on gaming too [like Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, which was a huge failure]. However, VR’s utility for other segments and applications is not clear.
2. Attracting enterprise focused developers: Unity is already doing this quite well. In the blog, I mentioned that Unity entered into a partnership with Electronic Arts (maker of popular games like Need for Speed, Fifa) as per which EA uses the Unity platform for most of its game development. One reason why Unity can be attractive to enterprise players is its asset store (explained in the value capturing mechanism # 2 in the blog). Through the asset store platform, enterprise companies can get freelancers and indie developers to develop elements of the game (like characters etc.)
Thanks a lot Libby! You raise an interesting question about what a Unity-powered model for television/ film content would look like. At a very high level, I feel there are 2 types of film content: original camera footage and CGI generated imagery. I feel that Unity is well poised to move into CGI imagery space given that a lot of capabilities for game development (like animated characters, background images etc.) are very relevant for movies as well. We are seeing an increase in CGI powered movies (Avengers, Avatar, Jurassic World etc.) and I feel that Unity is in a great position to expand its tool to help in the CGI creation for movies like these.
Thanks Alice. I agree with you that Unity can get a head start by locking in partnerships with firms like Netflix. However, I also feel that the media/ entertainment industry to move into VR will require a lot of other developments (and Unity can influence although not champion these other developments). For e.g. gaming was a pretty well established industry and appropriate for VR as most of the gaming enthusiasts have very powerful computers at home with advanced GPUs that can render VR games. However, movie consumers do not have access to these devices. Hence, VR development in movies/ entertainment would be more phased out
Hi Sidharth. Thanks for your compliments. My answers are below:
I think there are still ways for startups to disrupt big companies. Take AlphaGo for example. While data was needed for training and testing the AI models, once the training/testing was completed, the algorithms were more important. The training data that AlphaGo used was historical data about Go board positions, which is not that difficult to obtain. The advantage that AlphaGo and some of the other big companies is that they enjoy first mover advantage in creating even more data, which is proprietary and not publicly available. For e.g. AlphaGo played against itself to generate even more board positions data (which is proprietary). Thus, even startups can compete if they invest in developing these technologies early.
Regarding compute power: Better designed algorithms can actually work on less compute power. For e.g. AlphaGo makes less computations per second than Deep Blue (which was used to defeat Kasparov at chess some 20 years back). Also another version of AlphaGo was released and that version ran on many more computers. However, the performance improvement seen in the distributed version of AlphaGo was not that much (indicating that the algorithms are not constrained by the computer’s computing power). The distributed version of AlphaGo ran on 1202 CPUs while the original AlphaGo ran on 48 CPUs. The distributed version had a rating of 3140 while the original version had a rating of 2890
I think in such a scenario, in which machines are writing a lot of code, the field will become even more open for other players. The process of code writing would be democratized and available to startups and smaller firms. Hence, I feel that smaller players might be able to capture a bigger share of the pie
Hi. Great post! Darktrace appears to be a very interesting company. I wonder how the Darktrace algorithms differentiate between a network breach or an attack and a planned surge in network activity. For e.g. when a company is launching a promotion, there might be a surge on the network because of increased website hits or other reasons. This surge might be quite similar in profile to a hacker attack. Do you know how the firm tries to get around this problem?
Hi Yao. Thanks for the post. I had a few questions regarding Legendary’s strategy:
1. Movies are making a lot of revenue from international markets. For e.g. Legendary’s movies like Dark Knight, Jurassic Park were big hits outside US. Do you think the localized and granular data approach that Legendary takes right now would remain relevant given the very diverse and wide international audiences that movies have to cater to?
2. This approach appears to be similar to Netflix’s approach of creating relevant TV series based on the viewing data of users. However, Netflix is able to do this because they have extremely high quality data about viewing pattern of users (including time for which they watched a series, # of episodes etc.). However, in the movie world I imagine that this data would be more dispersed – for e.g. an average user might watch only 6-10 movies in a year and it might not be easy to get this viewing history of the user [for e.g. How will Legendary know that I saw 2 movies – as in how will it connect my ticket purchase for these 2 movies]. Do you think that under this scenario, their approach to develop movies based on historical data is a good strategy?
Hi Yezi. Thanks for the great post. Do you think cities invest in these new technologies without trying to make use of existing data and infrastructure? For e.g. Google maps/ Uber already will have a pretty good database of traffic pattern in Chicago and the city can find way to partner with these firms to get access to this data. This might be a faster and cheaper process than installing the nodes [although I do agree that the nodes also captures data that might not be readily available.
Hi Sidharth. Thanks for the great post. I cannot help comparing Splunk to our GE case. I have 2 questions:
1. How does Splunk collect all this data? GE owned the machines and, hence, it was easy for them to integrate sensors in the machines to get the data. Does Splunk have partnerships with various machine manufacturers like server manufacturers like IBM? Or is it able to ingest a data dump from any machine and then organize it for easier visualization?
2. In the GE case, GE was trying to capture value by promising to clients that their insights can lead to cost savings and then taking a cut of these cost savings. Splunk has a different value capture model in which they charge for the data that is uploaded to their platform by its size. Do you think that if they move to a GE type value sharing and capture model, it will help them to scale faster?
Thanks Anish! Very relevant question. Yes, I think they would need to start paying their volunteers if they are also raising money from the research groups. For e.g. if they are able to get $5 for every man-hour work that they are able to source for the research group, then I can imagine them giving out $3 to the actual volunteers and keep $2 for themselves. In this way they will continue creating value for all the stakeholders: (1) research groups can still access talent at a rate of $5 per hour compared to minimum wage of around $10 in US; (2) volunteers can earn some money from this and at the same time benefit from the game like aspect of these projects and the recognition they get
Hi Sonali. Great post! I wonder how useful crowdsourced recommendations about medicines or drugs are? Every patient has a very different medical background and history and just because a drug might have worked for a majority of people that might not mean that it is the best drug or therapy for a given patient. How do you think Iodine can tackle this problem?
Hi Yezi. Great post! I have question around the effectiveness of a crowdsourcing model for a Hyperloop concept. The design and development of Hyperloop is pretty much an engineering challenge. Hence, there is lesser amount of “creativity” involved and I wonder how much can a crowd contribute to it vs. an in-house engineering team. While I agree that the outward design and architecture of structures like Hyperloop can be crowdsourced…once this is fixed, I think the engineering solution to it is quite constrained and a crowdsourcing model might not be very beneficial. I am curious to hear your thoughts.
Hi Sidharth. Great post! I had a couple of questions on this model. (1) Don’t you think that Salesforce might be doing a bit damage to itself as users would be writing about all the limitations in its current product and this is open for everyone to see? (2) Competitors could also go to IdeaExchange and see the features that are not present in Salesforce. If the Salesforce team declares that they will not be working on the suggested features then competitors can see this as a whitespace and start development of their own and capture this value. Salesforce would then find it difficult to recapture this value later on when it does decide to develop such a feature.
Hey Scott. Great post! One thing that I find very interesting about this is that besides getting designs for free, Lego is also getting an idea about the customer demand based on who in the community voted on the designs. For e.g. if a particular Star Wars themed Lego set was mostly voted upon by males between 20-30 years then this information will shape Lego’s marketing and sales strategy for this themed Lego set, thereby, leading to reduced marketing and distribution expenses. Similarly if a particular theme was very popular in France but nowhere else then Lego could just stock the product in France and not invest in inventory around the world.
Hi Bansi. Fantastic post! We definitely need some innovation in crime solving to ensure that justice is served as fast as possible. I have a question around incentivizing the group for crowdsourcing. One reason why reddit or other crowdsourcing platforms are very popular is the community and social aspect of it. People tend to contribute and talk to people about their insights or build on the insights of other. Your suggestion for crowdsourcing in crime solving does not have a community angle attached to it. Do you think that would impact the adoption of the platform?
Hi Lauren. Thanks for the great post! It was interesting to see from your post that Poshmark is able to play a very strong role as a platform because it also provides the escrow service to buyers and, therefore, it would be difficult to disinter mediate Poshmark from this system. Regarding network effects, do you think Poshmark has integrated itself well with the other social platforms? For e.g. can you share something from Poshmark to Facebook or Pininterest? My point is that if this integration is smooth then users on Poshmark can immediately benefit from their network on Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram and would not need to wait for their entire network to move to Poshmark.
Thanks Libby! I think your point about Facebook using Messenger as an “experimental” platform for testing out new features make complete sense! Probably that is why they are not experimenting that much with Whatsapp so as to at least preserve one messaging platform in its pure form. Overall I feel that the future of Messenger platform seems very exciting given the move into VR. I think Zuckerberg demoed how Messenger could be used for a video call inside Oculus and I am sure the bots that you mentioned in your post will also evolve to take advantage of the VR environment.
Regarding your comment on FB’s ad platform: I agree that critiques of FB’s ad platform has been increasing. But this is something not unique to FB but is true of online advertising in general. Online ads will definitely face a lot more back lash in the future (as we can already see from the rapid rise in Ad blocking), but I feel FB is best positioned to still succeed given its strong control on both the platform as well as the inventory base (captive FB properties)
Hi Libby. Thanks for the great post! I think Facebook decided to carve out Messenger functionality from the main Facebook app because the main FB app was becoming “too big and complicated” and was trying to solve too many functionalities. Do you think Messenger is also moving down a similar path now? It has the core messaging functionality and as you mentioned in your post it has become a platform too (containing bots as well as sticker apps etc.). I think Facebook also has plan to launch its virtual assistant technology “M” within Messenger for all users (http://www.theverge.com/2015/10/26/9605526/facebook-m-hands-on-personal-assistant-ai). Do you think that even Messenger will become complicated enough to be split into smaller apps/ platforms in the future?
Hi James. Great post! Steam indeed is one of the oldest technology platform around. What are your views on how some of the recent changes in the gaming industry will impact Steam? For e.g. VR headsets and games are becoming popular. Both Facebook (through Oculus) and Google (through Daydream) are entering VR and game distribution. What impact do you think will this have on Steam and Valve? I know that Valve was a partner in the HTC Vive development. But do you think that Steam would be able to stand up to Facebook or Google in the game distribution business?
Hi Natalie. Great post! Your point about how Roku transitioned from a pure hardware device to a software platform/ Operating system for Smart TVs is fascinating. I had a question about the data ownership of viewer’s watching history. We all know that one of the main reasons we all use Netflix is its very strong recommendation engine. In the case of Roku, who owns the data about the shows and content that the user viewed to be used for better recommendation. Does Roku compartmentalize this data and use it to improve recommendation only within the different content providers (like Netflix, HBO Now) or does it combine the data from the different content providers to improve overall recommendation for the user across all content providers? Given Roku is related to Netflix (although they are different companies), how does it assuage the concerns of other content providers that their data would not be shared with Netflix?
Hi Kyla! Thanks a lot for your comment. I am really surprised too at how Craiglist has been able to dominate the market for so long despite its poor UX.
1. I agree that eBay has a very different model compared to Craiglist or OfferUp and that FB marketplace would be the bigger threat. However, given eBay (or for that matter Amazon marketplace) already has the basic tech and brand recognition in place, I think that they can probably become a big player in this space in the future. However, I agree that their focus is elsewhere right now
2. I agree with you that OfferUp is benefitting from indirect network effects right now. However, i think there are some ways in which they can benefit from direct network effects as well. For e.g. a company called Poshmark (very similar to OfferUp but it deals in used luxury goods) is focusing a lot on creating “communities” of users in which users can share style tips with each other. A user could also follow other users (like bookmarking boards of Pinterest users) and see the items that they are interested in. Therefore, addition of new users to this community would be beneficial for all users (as new users could share styling tips with existing users). Another used goods marketplace app example called VarageSale. They follow a model in which they create closed groups based on geographical proximity. Therefore, a small town might have its own closed community (mostly to ensure that there is enough trust and transactions can take place easily. They are also trying to replace the traditional “garage sales” in rural America). In these closed groups, most buyers are sellers and vice versa. Therefore, in this case if a new buyer joins the platform then the probability is quite high that he/she might become a seller in a few days (which will then benefit all the other buyers on the platform). I feel that in the future OfferUp might start doing something like this.