If Jio Glass is successful, Reliance would have succeeded where both its investors Google and Facebook have failed
One of the highlights of Reliance’s AGM besides the announcement that Google will invest $4.5 billion in the company was the introduction of a Jio Glass, a mixed reality device which will help company foray into AR/VR market. Although Reliance did not disclose at what price these would be launched and when, it has undoubtedly evinced interest. Given Reliance’s history to make cheap products, it may not be too expensive either. Strikingly, the announcement comes at a time, when Facebook earlier this year discontinued its more affordable VR headset Oculus Go. Both Facebook and Google, now Reliance investors, have tried their hands in the mixed reality segment and failed.
Google and Oculus, later purchased by Facebook, were the first two entrants in the market, but their overpriced products found limited application and tanked. While Microsoft is foraying into this market with its HoloLens, price is still a big consideration, especially in a country like India, where technology adoption by businesses has been slower.
Besides, none of these products have been available in India. So Reliance will have a clear first-mover advantage. Google and Facebook will be watching closely too. Reliance’s success will mean that Google and Facebook can replicate this in other markets. So, Jio Glass is a litmus test.
To that extent, this pandemic has been an opportunity for an otherwise ailing sector. Consumer interest has waned, and absence of any real innovations has added to the problem. As this paper noted earlier (bit.ly/2CMdJY9), investments have also declined. A Venture Beat report highlights that deal size and volumes in the first quarter of 2020 were the same as in 2013. But with most people locked at home, VR is becoming fashionable again. Brands want to adopt it for experiential shopping, whereas the events industry is ready for a change as webinar fatigue is wearing people down.
Education also needs transformation, but this will happen if Reliance can get the pricing right. Till last year, Facebook’s was the cheapest product in the market at $185 (Rs 14,000), the next device was $400 costlier. HoloLens is priced at $2,500. If Jio Glass is anywhere above the Rs 10,000 price range (this is what you can buy a cheap good configuration smartphone for), it will price out most of the market.
With a Rs 5,000 price tag Jio Glass will capture the market. Even with low-tech—you need to connect smartphone using wires to the device, others were stand-alone devices—Reliance may do very well.
Besides, Reliance is better placed than Google and Facebook to make mixed reality a reality. Leave aside the price, one of the bigger considerations when Google or Facebook launched their products was bandwidth. Reliance, on the other hand, is standing at the cusp of 5G adoption.
But the company will have its own challenges. The graphics, from what was discernable from the AGM, need to be improved. If people get the same graphics that they get on a phone while playing Pokemon Go, with little connection to reality, Reliance will have a problem.
Second, an ecosystem needs to be in place. Surprisingly, Reliance did not ask developers to start creating apps for mixed reality. If the ecosystem and products do not exist, failure is imminent. Google and Facebook can undoubtedly be of help in this department.
Reliance cannot afford failure. The data and future investments that are dependent on its success are significant. If Reliance is successfully able to pull this off, it will be one of the most significant data players in India. And, will have a repository of nearly everything. Combine this with machine learning and Reliance will be able to discern consumer trends for years to comes.