In a curious move, HTC has revealed a new mobile VR headset called Link that is not part of the company’s Vive brand. The move comes just a week after the company announced a mobile standalone Vive headset in partnership with Google.

HTC is by now one of the world’s leaders in the virtual reality space. The company actually set up the HTC Vive Tech Corporation subsidiary back in 2015 under which all of its virtual reality activities have been coordinated. So it comes as a surprise to see the announcement of a new mobile headset that has nothing to do with the Vive brand, the company confirmed to Road to VR, despite the device’s logo which forms a shape very similar to the Vive logo.

The HTC Link headset is powered by its U11 smartphone and uses an external camera to track markers on the headset and controllers for positional tracking | Photo courtesy HTC

Instead the Link headset is designed to work with HTC’s newly announced U11 smartphone. It will also make use of an outside-in tracking system to support positional (6DOF) tracking; it’s one of the first mobile headsets coming from a major company to do so. Curious still, the Link headset is only due to be released in Japan, HTC tells Road to VR.

The Link announcement comes just one week after Google announced that it’s working with Vive (among others) to build new mobile standalone Daydream headsets for high-quality VR experiences built on Android. Meanwhile HTC itself has yet to offer a Daydream ready phone that would work with Google’s Daydream View headset.

The bulbous top portion atop the headset lights up to function as an optically tracked marker, similar to the glowing markers on PSVR and PlayStation Move | Photo courtesy HTC

The HTC phone group’s announcement of the Link and its lack of participation in Google’s Daydream initiative seems to reveal distinct operational boundaries of the company’s smartphone business and its Vive subsidiary. Despite Vive being one bright spot in a company that’s otherwise been attempting to claw its way back from major losses in the last several years, the brand is paid little attention on HTC’s main homepage, save for a header link that sends you off to the Vive website. Conversely, the only mention of the official HTC site on the Vive front page is reserved for a footer link.

To draw an analogy, this move would be much like if Facebook released it’s own branded VR headset that had nothing to do with Oculus.

First Glimpse of HTC's Standalone Vive Headset Powered by Google Daydream, Launching Later This Year

Vive is one of the most recognized and well regarded VR brands in the world today; to not leverage that brand as part of the launch of a new mobile VR headset—one which seems at odds with the strategies of the Vive brand—comes off as a strange misstep and a surprising lack of cross-pollination between two parts of the same company.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Mei Ling

    Perhaps they’re not confident with this product therefore they would wish to eliminate any possibility of their “flagship brand” being tarnished by potentially poor sales and reputation of this product.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Seems like an odd way to go about it, but perhaps they wanted to run a limited release of this type of product to gauge interest and research typical use patterns with a user base where play space is hard to come by. And do so in a way that wouldn’t potentially throw ill will to the Vive brand name.

      Either that or it’s a case where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

    • ummm…

      seems to me that a company of their size would have more faith in the product than that.

  • Janosch Obenauer

    Vive is htc/valve, so maybe an htc/Google product cannot use that brand name.

    • benz145

      The Link doesn’t have anything to do with Google (it isn’t a Daydream device as far as we’ve been told). Vive announced Daydream headset in partnership with Google last week.

    • kontis

      Vive brand was created solely by HTC and is owned 100% by HTC. Valve hays nothing to do with that name. This is why there will also be a Daydream VIVE.

  • Get Schwifty!

    I think they like Oculus are making a clear distinction between their PC-based products and their mobile. We like to think Vive or Oculus has significant “name” in the market, but the truth is mobile phone users are mostly oblivious to developments of VR on the PC, so there really is little value in a name tie-in and could actually lead to confusion in marketing, etc. for end-users.

    • benz145

      Oculus has it’s name in their mobile play, they run the software platform. Gear VR is under Samsung’s brand because they make the hardware.

      • beestee

        So Viveport on the U11/Link seems likely.

    • ummm…

      good points. however, by not keeping it within the vive ecosystem, at least in name, it could also fracture their product base or create confusion. I can also see people finding out about pc vive from the fact that they have the mobile “vive”

    • Damian Kempter

      That would make sense were it not for that fact that HTC has already announced a Vive branded mobile headset based on the Daydream platform.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Most ugly and stupid ass VR headset I’ve ever seen.

    Why are people even discussing this?

    • ummm…


  • I see it as an experiment… it’s very strange because it’s mobile but with outside-in tracking. Maybe they’ll release it in Japan and then decide if it is worth making something official that is like that

  • CaptainAwesomer

    Aren’t they planning on selling the Vive subsidiary though? It might get messy if they brand their HTC phone products as Vive and then sell of the Vive brand.