Mihai Pohontu on Samsung's Multi-Platform Future

On the eve of Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco, the VP of Emerging Platforms talks new opportunities for both consumers and developers.

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Samsung is holding its own Developer Conference between April 27-28 in San Francisco, with more than 5,000 devs set to attend. Before the event we got the chance to catch up and find out about all of the things that content/game developers (and therefore consumers) can look forward to with Mihai Pohontu, VP of Emerging Platforms.

Among the discussion topics we talked about Galaxy Stores, Gear VR, Samsung S7 and the company's ecosystem in general, including VR, Internet of Things, and even potential AR plans for the future. On top of that, Pohontu shares his thoughts on other areas which might be of interest to both consumers and developers alike, such as the mobile-like production model for the rumoured PS4K, or the possibility of a Samsung console/handheld.

Here's the full video interview. We've selected the most relevant excerpts from the exec's answers below.

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Mihai Pohontu on Samsung's Multi-Platform Future
Samsung Gear VR powered by S7 screen.

Samsung Gear VR was bundled with many S7 smartphones during its recent and very notorious launch. It also made a great impact at Mobile World Congress, and its ongoing TV ad is perhaps the first true mainstream sign in Europe indicating a new wave of VR is coming. What is Samsung's role in this newly opened market space and the opportunities for growth it presents?

The Gear VR for us is an incredible device. Samsung has been an innovator in the VR space since the early days. We were the first to launch a commercial VR device in partnership with Oculus and we will continue to invest in the technology and evolve it over time. For us VR is a connected experience to the mobile device.

Then, do you think VR will be a profitable enterprise for Samsung? Where is the tipping point for you and when do you think it will be reached?

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VR already is a profitable market for us, not just as the sale of the unit itself, there is a positive dynamic there where we bundled the pre-release mobile device with the VR hardware it actually increases sales that the company generates and we're happy to say that VR as a standalone technology continues to be a focus for the company, we're investing heavily in services. We have created a platform called Milk VR that attempts to be a video portal for spherical video and that will continue to develop itself with a lot of great content and we're prominently looking for creators to contribute their wares to us, we're looking for great games to be created for the Gear VR and we think our device is truly positioned to be the first real mass market VR device available.

Regarding the greater VR ecosystem, where or when do you feel fully mobile VR will come in?

In our case, mobile VR absolutely is here. The mobile device powers Virtual Reality and even though our Gear VR device is not as technically proficient as some of our direct competitors such as [Oculus] Rift or the [HTC] Vive, it's perfectly suited for video, it of course offers games. But here's the goodness: mobile VR will continue to develop at a fast pace as these devices become more powerful in time. Current estimates show that by 2020 mobile devices will have more processing power at the GPU level than a PlayStation 4. It'll effectively be as good of a gaming device as a console will be. So mobile VR is here to stay, we're absolutely in that space currently through our partnership with Oculus and the experience of VR will continue to improve as the mobile devices improve over time.

Mihai Pohontu on Samsung's Multi-Platform Future
Samsung S7 and S7 Edge.

Some say AR is something that will be fully realised as the next big thing after this first wave of VR. Is that something you're investigating as well? If so, how might that be introduced?

AR vs VR: We are extremely excited about Augmented Reality. It is my personal belief that it will be an even greater opportunity than Virtual Reality, I think it will have very good applications to fields like education, and enterprise, and communication; so AR is absolutely an area of focus and research at Samsung. We're not yet ready to make any clear announcements in this space, but stay tuned, all those are coming...

Besides mobile, VR, and potentially AR, what other emerging platforms would you recommend content developers to keep an eye on? And specifically referring to games, how do you find other gear such as the S2 smartwatches or the increasingly popular drones as gaming platforms?

The Internet of Things for Samsung means a complex array of devices, a connected home, it can be a smart fridge with ability to control various factors inside the house. We have this technology called Smart Things that allows you to customise your house and effectively control your many devices around the house, the lights, the blinds, the doors from the internet and for a game maker I think that opens a new possibility, a new frontier. Imagine potentially designing a horror experience that takes full advantage of what takes place inside that house, the blinds may shutter, doors may open, the air conditioning may be blowing really cold air, the lights may flicker and all of this is part of the game experience, it could make the entire game feel more immersive and real.

With expertise acquired across both TV, smart devices and VR, including both hardware and app/games environment, is it possible that we'll see Samsung pitching it's own console or handheld device as another emerging platform?

I don't think Samsung needs to have its own console. I mentioned earlier that the processing power of our mobile phones will soon arrive at or even surpass the current generation of consoles, so effectively a mobile device is a console. Effectively today, not some time in the future, today a mobile phone is perfectly capable of delivering a very good casual experience.

What do you think about consoles seemingly adopting a business and production model similar to your high-end smartphones, with more regular hardware updates, such as the widely rumoured PS4K?

I think it's a great idea, first from an industry angle I would say, anything we can do to maintain some consistency to our platforms and not have to do a complete overhaul every so many years, launching a new generation of consoles, with a new operating system, with a new hardware configuration and just augmenting what we already have, just adapting it to current needs, I think that's a good idea. From Samsung's perspective we are just invested in making sure that our mobile devices and our ecosystem devices work seamlessly across platform, they are also as powerful as the market demand is for them and I think we're right there on the cusp of delivering incredible experiences through the mobile device to the rest of the screens in our life.

What are the main synergies and possibilities developers are working towards at events such as your own upcoming Samsung Developers Conference? What has been your experience so far working to strengthen your own dev environment for a wide range of platforms?

SDC is the number one opportunity we've created to get the message out to developers, fantastic event organised in San Francisco with 3,000 developers attending, this year we're expecting 5,000 plus and an array of technologies on display and an array of business executives available to meet with developers to explore the next big opportunity.

Mihai Pohontu on Samsung's Multi-Platform Future
Still picture of a Samsung Gear 360º picture.
Mihai Pohontu on Samsung's Multi-Platform Future
Samsung Gear VR is produced in partnership with Oculus VR.

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