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HTC’s China-exclusive Vive Focus VR headset is now launching worldwide

HTC will start selling its standalone Vive Focus virtual reality headset worldwide today, after an initial launch in China earlier this year. The headset, which will cost $599 in the US, is aimed at business customers in 37 countries. Its part of a larger attempt to make HTC VR headsets appealing to companies, including a newly announced collaboration app called Vive Sync, which lets employees in different offices meet and work together in VR. The Vive Focus is a self-contained mobile headset that tracks a users motion with outward-facing cameras — similar to the upcoming $399 Oculus Quest headset. HTC announced it after canceling a similar headset based on Googles Daydream VR platform, and it was initially unclear whether the Vive Focus would launch outside China. However, HTC confirmed an international release this spring, making a development kit available to US buyers. We were impressed by the Vive Focus tracking quality, and since its launch, HTC has developed fully tracked motion controllers to supplement its original remote-like pointing device. But dont expect a direct Oculus Quest competitor. HTC isnt pitching this as a consumer device — its more likely to show up in training simulators, industrial design facilities, or arcades. Buyers can add one of two Advantage premium service and repair packages, bringing the cost up to either $749 or $799. The Vive Focus will sit alongside HTCs older $499 Vive and $799 Vive Pro headsets, which are tethered to a computer. HTC touts the Vive Focus as a headset for businesses that want a truly mobile VR experience. Unlike the original Vive, it doesnt require any external sensor boxes, and it features the same high-end 2880 x 1600 resolution as the Vive Pro; its powered by Qualcomms Snapdragon 835 mobile chipset and has a battery life of up to three hours. HTC highlighted another upcoming all-in-one headset by Chinese company Shadow Creator, which is using HTCs Vive Wave mobile VR platform to launch a headset called the Shadow VR. It will launch worldwide on November 11th, and has a similar feature set to the Vive Focus, albeit with a slightly lower-resolution screen. HTC has set its sights on business customers for a while now, but its emphasizing that aim more than ever with the Vive Focus. Thats a contrast with competitors Oculus and Sony, which have portrayed their VR headsets as mass-market entertainment devices — although Oculus also provides headsets to companies like Walmart for training and other uses. HTC is likely making the safer move here, since businesses have consistently used VR systems for decades, while its only recently carved out a niche in the consumer market. But for anyone looking to buy an HTC-built VR headset for personal gaming or VR movies, its a bit of a disappointment.

HTC’s standalone VR is available in the US, starts at $599

It's only for enterprise customers for now, however. Almost a year after it was released in China, the HTC Vive Focus is finally available in the US and Europe, making it a total of 37 markets (including Japan recently). There is a catch, however, in that these headsets are geared more towards enterprise customers on this side of the world. The kit will sell for $599, and by paying an extra $150, it'll come with the Vive Enterprise Advantage service package, which includes commercial licensing, dedicated support, tailored hardware warranties, batch configuration feature and more. As a reminder, the Vive Focus is a standalone headset, without the need for a phone or an external PC. It has a resolution of 1,440 x 1,600 per eye, is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, and developers will be able to experiment with its 6DoF controller add-on shortly. HTC made this announcement at an enterprise-centric event where it's making the case for VR for businesses. In an interview with Engadget, General Manager of the Americans Dan O'Brien said he saw great traction in various business VR applications in the US and Europe. Some of the industries where VR has a potential use case include automotive design, architecture design, situational training, medical training and location-based enterprises. Announced alongside is a collaboration tool called Vive Sync, which essentially enables conference calls in VR. Think VRChat but for work, if you will. Users will be able to brand the environment and import objects to share with others in this enterprise application, while also making use of the Office 365 integration -- especially for setting up meetings. Pilot trials will begin in December ahead of a Q1 2019 launch. The Vive Focus uses HTC Vive's own Android-based Vive Wave platform instead of Google's Daydream. Several other third-party manufacturers also use Vive Wave as its platform, primarily in China. At the event, the company announced that Shadow Creator would be the next hardware partner to utilize Vive Wave. Richard Lai contributed to this report.