HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ) recently unveiled the Omen X, a high-end "VR-ready" PC with a twist -- the entire device is crammed into a wearable backpack case. HP hasn't revealed the exact specifications yet, but it promises that the entire device weighs less than 10 pounds. It reportedly has a battery life of just one hour, but the batteries can be swapped without shutting down the entire system.
It's unclear how much the Omen X will cost, but it will likely cost more than the average $1,000 VR-ready PC. The device is an obvious attempt to free hardcore gamers from headsets tethered with cables to desktop PCs, but will anyone actually buy one?
Hardcore vs. casual VR gamers
Hardcore VR gamers generally favor Facebook's Oculus Rift and HTC/Valve's Vive, which are both tethered to high-end desktops, or Sony's PlayStation VR, which requires a PS4. More casual gamers will likely favor cheaper, mobile-based headsets like Samsung's Gear VR or Alphabet's Google Cardboard.
Research firm Piper Jaffray estimates that Samsung will sell 5 million Gear VRs this year, compared to 3.6 million Oculus Rifts and 2.1 million Vives. Piper believes that Samsung will take the early lead for a simple reason -- the headset only costs $99 and works with its own smartphones.
That's probably why Google convinced OEMs to make "Daydream ready" smartphones which will work seamlessly with its new VR headsets and remotes. Therefore, mobile-centered VR headsets could be considered much more affordable, portable, and practical for mainstream gamers than VR-ready PCs, or wearable VR backpacks. Many VR games have also been designed with limited movement in mind, so it's unclear how many games will actually take advantage of a wearable backpack PC.
HP's not the only VR backpack maker
The Omen seems aimed at a very small slice of the hardcore gaming market, but MSI and Zotac also recently announced similar VR backpacks. However, I seriously doubt that most gamers will rush out to buy one -- the weight, battery life, cost, and the need for a controlled environment all indicate that VR backpack PCs will fade away as an early misstep in the fledgling VR market.
Since HP is probably only selling a limited quantity of the Omen X, it shouldn't hurt the company's overall sales growth. But it also certainly won't help its slumping PC business, which posted a 10% annual sales decline last quarter due to sluggish consumer and enterprise demand.