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VR’s first billion in 2016

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Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu has predicted that virtual reality (VR) will have its first billion dollar year in 2016, with about US$700 million in hardware sales, and the remainder from content.

The 15th edition of Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions, a report by Deloitte Global, estimates sales of about 2.5 million VR headsets and 10 million game copies sold. Additionally, the report expects the majority of spending on VR to be by core users rather than casual gamers. This means that while anyone with a smartphone could try a variant of VR, the majority of VR’s revenues in 2016 will likely be driven by tens of millions of users rather than billions of users.

“While in 2016 virtual reality is expected to reach a major milestone―becoming a one billion dollar market—in the long term VR is likely to struggle to reach the scale or ubiquity of the smartphone, PC or the television set,” said Sharoda Rapeti, Deloitte TMT Director. “However, as the technology required to provide a total immersive experience improves, wider global adoption may ensue.

“We are seeing significant growth potential in cognitive technologies, such as computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning. This year 80 of the top 100 enterprise software companies are expected to be using cognitive technologies, unleashing the potential of the Internet of Things; this may even transform computing as we know it over time. While cognitive technologies may get less immediate attention from consumers than new virtual headsets, it is likely to be much more important over the long run for the enterprise and for consumers alike.”

Millennials may not be the post-PC generation

In addition to the predictions on virtual reality, the report suggests that while millennials are the smartphone generation, trailing millennials (those 18-24 years old) are anticipated to be the most pro-PC of all age groups of 2016. According to research by Deloitte member firms, an average of over 85 percent of trailing millennials in 13 developed world countries had access to a laptop in 2015. Further, laptop access for the trailing millennial demographic was either highest or second highest of the six age groups in the member firms’ surveys in all but two markets, Norway and Finland. This data suggests 18-24 year-olds see smartphones and PCs as complements, not substitutes, which may in part be due to the decreased costs of laptops (there are many devices for less than US$500 available on the market).

Additional findings from Deloitte Global’s 2016 TMT predictions include:

Technology

·         Women in IT jobs: it is about education, but also about more than just education – By the end of 2016 fewer than 25 percent of information technology (IT) jobs in developed countries are expected to be held by women, (i.e., women working in IT roles). This figure is about the same as 2015, and may even be down.

·         Cognitive technologies enhance enterprise software – In 2016 more than 80 of the world’s 100 biggest software companies will likely have integrated cognitive technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, or speech recognition, into their products. This represents a 25 percent increase from 2015 when 64 of the top 100 had launched products and services, which featured one or more cognitive technologies.

·         Touch Commerce: the mobile online checkout gets an express lane –The number of individuals who use a third party touch-based payment service to make a purchase on their mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) is likely to increase by 150 percent to reach 50 million regular users in 2016. Touch commerce enables retailers to exploit shoppers’ increasing use of mobile devices to browse retail sites where transactions have remained scarce, due mostly to laborious payment processes.

·         Graphene: research now; reap next decade – While the total value of the graphene materials market in 2016 is likely to be in the low tens of millions of dollars, research and development spending for the year is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In the medium-term, graphene may be incorporated into products worth many billions of dollars of value per year– but it could be decades before this material’s potential is fully realized.

Media

·         Mobile ad-blockers: saved by the app? Only 0.3 percent of all mobile device owners are expected to use an ad-blocker by end 2016. This is likely to place less than US$100 million (0.1 percent) of the US$70 billion mobile advertising (smartphones and tablets) market at risk.

·         Mobile games: leading, but less lucrative – In 2016 mobile (smartphone and tablet) will likely become the leading games platform by software revenue, expected to generate US$35 billion in revenue up 20 percent from 2015. This compares to expected revenues of US$32 billion for PC games and US$28 billion for console games, up only five and six percent respectively from the previous year. However, average revenue per game by platform will likely vary significantly.

·         eSports: bigger and smaller than you think – eSports will likely generate global revenues of US$500 million in 2016, up 25 percent from about US$400 million in 2015, and will likely have an audience of regular and occasional viewers of close to 150 million people. This expected revenue is only a fraction of league revenues in major sports such as European football (soccer), U.S. football, basketball, baseball, or ice hockey, which range from US$4 billion up to US$30 billion.

·         European football scores US$30 billion – The European football market will likely reach US$30 billion for the first time for 2016/2017, an US$8 billion increase relative to 2011/2012, and a compound annual growth rate of seven percent.

·         The award for stable box office revenues in the face of digital media goes to … – In 2016 the value of movie theatre admissions in the US and Canada are expected to fall by about three percent to about US$10.6 billion, with about 1.3 billion tickets sold.

·         US TV: erosion, not implosion – In 2016 the US traditional television market, the world’s largest at what will likely be about US$170 billion in 2016, is expected to see erosion on at least five fronts: the number of pay-TV subscribers; pay-TV penetration as a percent of total population; average pay-TV monthly bill; consumers switching to antennas for watching TV; and live and time-shifted viewing by the overall population, and especially by trailing millennials 18-24 years old.

Telecommunications

·         The dawn of the Gigabit Internet age: every bit counts – The number of Gigabit per second (Gbit/s) Internet connections is expected to surge to ten million by year-end, a tenfold increase of which about 70 percent will likely be residential connections. Rising demand will likely be fueled by increasing availability and falling prices. It’s anticipated that about 600 million subscribers may be on networks that offer a Gigabit tariff as of 2020, representing the majority of connected homes in the world.

·         Used smartphones: the US$17 billion market you may never have heard of – In 2016 consumers are expected to sell outright or trade-in approximately 120 million used smartphones, generating more than US$17 billion for their owners. This is a marked increase from the 80 million smartphones traded in 2015 with a value of US$11 billion. Moreover, 10 percent of premium smartphones (US$500 or higher) purchased new in 2016 will likely end up having three or more owners before being retired.

·         Photo sharing: trillions and rising – In 2016, 2.5 trillion photos are expected to be shared or stored online, a 15 percent increase on the prior year. Over 90 percent of these photos will likely have been taken over a smartphone; digital SLRs, compact cameras, tablets and laptops are estimated to collectively contribute the remainder. This estimate does not include the trillions of photos that remain on devices’ memory.

·         The rise of the “data exclusive” – About 26 percent of smartphone users in developed markets are expected to not make any traditional phone calls in a given week in 2016. These individuals, known as ‘data exclusives’, have not stopped communicating, but are rather substituting traditional voice calls for a combination of messaging including SMS, voice and video services delivered ‘over the top’.

·         VoLTE / VoWiFi: capacity, reach and capability – 100 mobile operators worldwide will likely be offering at least one packet-based voice service at the end of 2016, double the amount year-on-year, and six times higher than at the beginning of 2015.  The report estimates that approximately 300 million customers will be using Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) and / or Voice over LTE (VoLTE), double the number at the start of the year and five times higher than at the beginning of 2015.

Now in its 15th year, Deloitte Global’s annual TMT Predictions provides a 12-18 month outlook on key trends in the technology, media and telecommunications industry sectors worldwide. Full details about the global TMT Predictions are available here: www.deloitte.com/tmtpredictions

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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