After watching Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg’s keynote speech at Facebook F8 2017, many ran to their computers to write an obituary for smartphones. Publications like Business Insider, and Entrepreneur cried that Zuckerberg’s announcement meant that smartphones were going to die, offering snippets of the speech, where Zuckerberg makes reference to augmented reality through glasses or contact lenses. While he does mention using glasses for augmented reality, he speaks of it as something he is building towards. In the hour-long presentation, he only mentions the use of glasses twice. For the rest of the presentation he tells the audience to use the camera found on – you’ve probably guessed — their smartphone.
Predictions that the smartphone is going to die are unfounded
For augmented reality to take off Zuckerberg must rely on the fact that people will still be buying smartphones for the next 10 years. And if trends are correct, he does not have to worry. According to IT firm Gartner in Q4 2016, there was an increase of 7 percent in global sales of smartphones compared to 2015. This rise came at a time when Samsung 7 was going up in flames, literally, and Apple didn’t release a new iPhone. Many predict that new smartphone releases from big players like Samsung, Apple, Nokia, and even Blackberry will aid the rise in global smartphone sales in 2017.
While Zuckerberg might be planning for his augmented reality to take the place of the smartphone, it’s hard to predict what the markets will demand. For example, when companies first launched 3D television many cried the fall of the traditional television. Over 40 networks jumped the gun and launched 3D channels, including ESPN, Sky, and Canal+, to cater to this innovation. But by January 2017, Sony, Vizio, and LG stopped production on their 3D televisions. Now the 3D networks that ‘got ahead’ are cutting their losses.
Adopting a wait-and-see policy
If charges were laid against Mark Zuckerberg for killing the smartphone, no attorney would be able to prosecute this case in front of a judge. All the evidence is circumstantial. The most they’d get is a warrant for surveillance on Facebook headquarters.
Imagine a future in which, instead of Apple or Google, Facebook set the ground rules about what apps can and can’t do on its platform. Like Apple’s App Store, Facebook could take a cut of all transactions that occur within its augmented reality platform. And Facebook would know more about its billions of users — what they’re seeing and interacting with in the real world — than any company in history.
So, before we lay the smartphone to rest, maybe we should just keep an eye on where Zuckerberg is going to take augmented reality over the next 10 years.
Jennifer D’Agostino | The Edge Blog