Inside Information On HTC Vive Delay
- Throwaway for obvious reasons. I cannot say who I am or what my motivations are without making it easy for certain companies to identify me. I apologize for that. I have been keeping this to myself in the hopes it would get out organically, but recent events have shown that hope to be foolish. This is my story. It is 90 percent true, with slight falsehood edits to protect identifiable information and some informed guessing/rumors.
- 1- HTC has known about the delay for many months. The June shareholder report was hotly debated internally. Cher Wang, the CEO, already had to apologize for missing targets, losing money, and killing wearable projects after investing millions. They already knew they would miss their holiday target, but announcing a delay for Vive - one of only two brights spots in the company, along with the iPhone clone Hero phone - was deemed too risky with HTC stock at an all time low. They decided to wait until after their stock buyback propped up the share price.
- 2- The delay crept further and further, but project managers tried their best to hide that from subordinates and leadership, fearing a leak or termination. Few people knew about the delay, or the reasons for it, even HTC employees working hard on the project. The reasons are as follow:
- ---2.1 The displays are not ready. I do not know all the details, but HTC and Valve both wanted to ship the same resolution as Oculus for compatibility and performance reasons. Oculus tried to keep the resolution of Crescent Bay confidential, but Valve-friendly developers with prototype hardware were happy to help with anything that would ensure easy multiplatform support. Their displays have the same resolution as Oculus, but have a critical flaw: pixel consistency. On low brightness and low contrast scenes, a lack of uniform pixel brightness leads to a rainbow speckle pattern on the image that moves with your head, like screen door effect, but much finer and all different colors. The dev units have this issue a little bit, but the panels used are binned to select for only the panels with the best performance, much like binned CPUs that overclock with more reliability.
- ---2.2 The camera system is not ready. HTC is working with an external partner on the camera. This partner made bold claims about what they system could do, but could not deliver. HTC is now left with decision: Reduce cost by removing the camera and going back on their announcement, or including the camera and relying on future software updates for full feature operations.
- ---2.3 Build quality is not ready. The new ergonomic design is comfortable, but much harder to manufacture. Many moving parts all conspire to break often. They can still ship, but only knowing that many Vives will fail in homes and need replacing. This is a very expensive way to ship a device, because purchase price has to cover warranty as well! And the next part...
- --2.4 The cost is more than expected. Now that the design is final, HTC knows what it costs to build. The building cost is similar to Oculus, because they use similar components. If HTC decides and announces price now, they don't know what will happen, and everyone might go crazy. It is safer to wait for Oculus to announce, see what the price is, see if customers like the price, then decide how much profit they can afford. They can bundle free movies or games to make Vive appear even more attractive. This part is only a guess: HTC might have to do something crazy if Oculus announces a price that is too low, like removing a Lighthouse or the camera.
- ---2.5 The audio quality is great, but when controllers are held close to headsets, sometimes there are static noises.
- ---2.6 HTC is asking Vive developers to please release their VR games in April when the Vive comes out, and saying that if they want to distribute games before April, to do it for free through Vive developer sharing channels. They do not want VR games to start selling when only Oculus will be on the market. Vive was built with Valve licensed technology, and can only function with the Valve store, so they are very worried about Valve store customers and impatient gamers deciding to buy Oculus and play both Oculus games and Valve games. Especially because of the last part...
- 3- This is not the last delay. HTC knows that it is better to avoid bad news for as long as possible. A small delay is not seen as so bad, but a big delay that puts them far behind competition is very dangerous for HTC. So the problem keeps going: Managers tell only the best case scenario to look good, not accounting for the problems that always come! In the best scenario, nothing will go wrong, solutions to all problems will be discovered, and Vive starts shipping some amount in April. I hope so, but they know it is almost impossible, and it makes me very sad to see this keep going.
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