Here’s one way virtual reality could get a big push in China.
HTC has signed a partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba that will see HTC use Alibaba’s cloud computing services for its nascent virtual reality unit. The struggling Taiwanese smartphone maker has been trying to make headway into the virtual reality space with its HTC Vive headset as its core smartphone business continues to weaken.
To help spur more mainstream interest in VR (and thus, to help boost sales), HTC has rolled out several big initiatives. In April, HTC created a $100 million investment fund for VR-focused startups, and in July, HTC said it would open over 10,000 HTC Vive demo stores in China so residents could try out the devices.
By partnering with Alibaba’s cloud computing arm, HTC said that the two companies will work together to improve the behind-the-scenes data center infrastructure required to deliver virtual reality content to consumers.
“Cloud computing has continuously broken the boundaries of what we thought possible, accelerating the rate of innovation,” said Ge Jin, Alibaba’s cloud business architect director, in a statement. “The partnership between Alibaba Cloud and HTC will bring two of the world’s most disruptive technologies together to bring more value to businesses looking to leverage VR and cloud.”
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Jin added that the partnership “will accelerate the development of VR technology in China and encourage widespread, global adoption.”
As part of the deal, HTC’s recently released VR app store will be available on the Alibaba Cloud, from where consumers can download.
The alliance makes sense for HTC as it continues its efforts to popularize its Vive headset. In order for virtual reality and 360-degree videos to stream to viewers without hiccups, the data center infrastructure needs to be flexible and powerful enough to support the large bandwidth requirements needed to deliver such large video files.
That’s why Facebook (FB) has been improving its data center technologies and related video compression techniques to accommodate streaming 360 video and VR content as part of its push to popularize its Oculus Rift VR headset.
For Alibaba, the e-commerce company has been trying to make its cloud computing unit the dominant cloud provider in China, where it’s more difficult for foreign cloud computing companies like Amazon (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) to operate due to the country’s tough data sovereignty and cybersecurity laws.
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Alibaba also unveiled this week a new initiative called AliLaunch, which is designed to make it easier for foreign companies to do business in China by integrating their technology services on the Alibaba cloud. Enterprise software giant SAP (SAP) and hardware storage company Hitachi Data Systems are some of the foreign businesses currently offering services via Alibaba in China.