Virtual reality shipments crater in Q2, but IDC says don't worry

IDC remains optimistic about VR--especially for the enterprise--but the data doesn't look so hot.


Shipments of virtual reality headsets tanked 33.7 percent in the second quarter ahead of new devices and the end of smartphone bundling, according to IDC data.

In other words, the VR revolution will have to wait...again.

IDC said it views the second quarter data as a "temporary setback" due to new products such as Oculus Go and HTC Vive Pro.

What's the problem? Year-ago figures were inflated due to screenless viewers from Alcatel, Samsung and Alcatel that were bundled with new smartphones. The screenless viewer category fell from 1 million headsets in the second quarter a year ago to 409,000 this year.

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The news isn't much better for tethered VR headsets, which were down 37.3 percent in the second quarter compared to a year ago. Oculus and Sony couldn't maintain momentum from price cuts a year ago. HTC did ship close to 111,000 headsets in the second quarter with Oculus at 102,000 and Sony at 93,000.

On the bright side, standalone VR headsets surged 417.7 percent in the second quarter due to Oculus Go and Xiaomi Mi VR. Meanwhile, commercial pilots are picking up, according to IDC as 20 percent of VR headsets in the second quarter were going to enterprises.

IDC in its statement argued that consumers are struggling to see the value in VR because there's a lack of content and it's hard to try a headset. Commercial activity looks promising.

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While IDC expects that second quarter to be a blip I'm not so sure. Here are some thoughts on the second quarter VR headset data:

  • Yes, enterprise is promising for VR, but there are other business priorities and it's unclear that the ROI will be there to push out other IT projects.
  • The industries--retail, hospitality, education primarily--making use of VR is limited.
  • Consumers still have to navigate a heavy pricey headset and that's a tough sell in the long run.
  • Oculus is supposed to be a big VR vendor, but being owned by Facebook isn't as cool as it used to be. As the social network is being scrutinized now more than ever you can expect questions about Oculus' impact on mental health and society to swirl.
  • HTC is the early leader and has enterprise traction, but it's unclear whether the vendor is strong enough to really push the category.
  • Samsung and Google are in the VR and augmented reality space, but the category likely needs Apple to popularize the technology and make it mainstream.

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