The hype surrounding the budding virtual reality (VR) market is nearly impossible to ignore. Talk of VR seemed to hit a peak recently, when Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) announced it was finally making its Oculus Rift VR headset available to the masses. Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF) is no stranger to the VR market, thanks in large part to Facebook's Oculus team's working in conjunction with the smartphone giant to develop its Gear smartphone VR headset.
Facebook and Samsung both recognize that at least initially, the VR opportunity revolves around the world of gamers. In just four years, VR is expected to become a $30 billion market led by gaming and 3D films, and it appears Samsung is nearly ready to introduce a new device that will change the way consumers capture and retain the special moments in their lives.
The future is now
Samsung, like its primary smartphone competitor Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), has been under pressure of late because of slowing smartphone sales. Unlike Apple, though, Samsung hasn't shied away from the low-end smartphone market with a slew of inexpensive units targeting the world's emerging markets. But that hasn't been enough to prevent Samsung's nearly 7% drop in share price year-to-date.
Compared to Apple's 10% stock decline this year, Samsung hasn't quite taken it on the chin like the iEverything maker, but both need a boost to win back investors. For Samsung, that boost may come in the form of an immersive, VR experience via its Gear headset. And if that isn't enough to move the needle, its soon-to-be introduced VR camera could do the trick.
According to Sammobile -- the equivalent of Apple's Mac Rumors site -- the much talked about VR camera from Samsung is about to be introduced to the masses. The Gear 360 camera is a consumer version of the much-discussed Nokia OZO VR solution targeting the commercial filmmaking market. It was just a matter of time before a manufacturer brought a VR camera to the world's masses, and it appears Samsung will be one of the first in line.
Unlike Nokia's OZO and its whopping $60,000 price point, Samsung's Gear 360 is expected to be an affordable, VR imaging alternative for the average consumer. Early indications are uncertain, but the Gear 360 will likely be compatible with Samsung's newer smartphone devices to allow for viewing of the camera's video and pictures.
Stop the presses
Samsung's annual "Unpacked" event scheduled for Feb. 21 will probably include the introduction of its latest smartphone iteration, the Galaxy S7 Edge. But with the current state of the smartphone market up in the air, Samsung's Gear 360 VR camera could steal the show. Much like Apple, Samsung needs to diversify its revenue sources even further.
In some ways Samsung is ahead of Apple in its efforts to move beyond a reliance on smartphones, though mobile is still its largest revenue-generating division. However, Samsung's Consumer Electronics and semiconductor units both performed admirably last quarter, growing 20% and 3%, respectively. By comparison, about two-thirds of Apple's total sales last quarter came from one source: iPhones.
The Gear 360 camera in and of itself won't turn Samsung's fortunes around, but it will certainly be a step in the right direction. Virtual reality is coming, and it will include a lot more than just headset wearing gamers immersed in their own, imaginary world. Given a choice, what consumer wouldn't prefer to shoot their holiday gatherings and other family oriented events using a 360 degree, VR-like camera as opposed to today's alternatives?
Samsung isn't alone in its efforts to earn a piece of what is expected to become a sizable VR camera pie. But given its powerful marketing capabilities, consumer awareness, and existing sales channels, don't be surprised to see Samsung leap-frog its competition soon after officially unveiling its Gear 360 on Feb. 21.
Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.