Commentary

AR Drives Up Mobile App Software Market

The mobile augmented reality (AR) marketplace could balloon to more than a billion users -- and $60 billion in revenue -- by 2021, Digi-Capital suggests in a new report.

And, thanks to tech titans like Facebook and Snap, software is positioned to dominate this space.

In fact, mobile AR software platforms could deliver more than 4 times the number of users of dedicated mobile AR hardware, the advisory firm predicts.

Playing catch-up with Snap, Facebook unveiled its AR app marketplace in April. Unlike Snap, however, Facebook’s marketplace is serving as an open platform for AR apps and tools.

“Instead of having maybe 10 or 20 options to choose from [with Snapchat], you’re going to have thousands of options from creators all over the world from all different types of cultures and backgrounds and styles,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in April.

And, among Facebook’s many strengths is its ability to encourage the adoption of new services and features.

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Indeed, “15% of WhatsApp users use Status 10 weeks after launch, 29% of Instagram users use Stories less than a year after launch, and 54% of Instagram users use Direct 4 years after launch,” Digi-Capital notes in its new report. “That’s a growth curve.”

Yet, in the evolving mobile AR marketplace, the line between software and hardware could get pretty blurry.

For instance, “The mobile AR software platforms could migrate seamlessly to new mobile AR hardware, making the user base of mobile AR hardware platforms a subset of mobile AR software platforms,” according to Digi-Capital.

“Both hardware and software players could win in mobile AR, but how (and how big) they’ll win might look very different,” it notes.

Looking ahead, Zuckerberg recently said he envisioned the AR revolution making many physical tools -- from TVs to photographs to clocks -- obsolete.   

One day, if you want to watch TV, “We can put a digital TV [on the wall], and instead of it being a piece of hardware, it’s a $1 app instead of being a $500 piece of equipment,” Zuckerberg said.

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