New Apple VR Rumors Ignore Small Sales & Insiders Hesitant About VR

I definitely don’t want to get into the habit of dunking on seriously questionable Insider articles but, well, here we go again:

The original designer of Meta’s VR offering, Oculus, says Apple’s much-rumored rival metaverse headset [!!!] is “so good.”

Palmer Luckey, a billionaire who cofounded Oculus VR in 2012 and now leads defense-tech startup Anduril, made the bold claim in a tweet on Sunday, suggesting he had tried out the iPhone maker’s next-generation hardware…

Industry watchers are expecting the tech giant to debut its metaverse project in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), particularly after the company made a quiet announcement about its iPad last week that would typically be saved for the conference.

First off:

A VR headset.

Is not.

The Metaverse.

It is definitely not a “metaverse project”.

It’s not even a necessary component of the Metaverse. VR HMDs are but one of many devices to access a metaverse platform.

It’s like calling a new iPhone with updated 3D graphics a “metaverse project” — in fact, that would actually be somewhat more accurate, since vastly vastly more people use smartphones to access metaverse platforms, than do so in VR.

Anyway, the real issue here is, first of all, taking away the wrong lesson of the Oculus Quest. As anyone who follows Meta’s earnings reports can tell you, Quest sales remain slow — the install base remains small, not yet even 20 million.

The other problem is putting more stock in what Oculus’ founder (who no longer works in VR) says about Apple’s VR headset — while ignoring what people actually working at Apple say. As I blogged a couple months ago, citing a Times report and an insider I interviewed for my book:

[As] the company prepares to introduce the headset in June, enthusiasm at Apple has given way to skepticism, said eight current and former employees, who requested anonymity because of Apple’s policies against speaking about future products. There are concerns about the device’s roughly $3,000 price [emph mine!], doubts about its utility and worries about its unproven market…

I’m also unsurprised there’s reported dissent at Apple, because I’ve heard implicit objections around XR myself while preparing my book.

For instance, an insider at Apple I spoke to echoed dana boyd’s concern that VR may be inherently biased to be difficult for females to use…

While declining to mention anything about Apple’s official roadmap, this insider said: “Apple is a very thoughtful company and they will only get into a space if they think they can do a good job of it.” 

That suggests a highly mass market product — as in, most of the population — which VR and metaverse platforms are not.

“There’s a lot of people who think Second Life is magical,” as they put it to me. “There’s a lot of people who go. ‘I would never do that.’ And so typically, if you want to make a really broad base consumer product, you want to find something that almost everybody feels is magical.”

None of our conversation suggested Apple is leaping into XR or the Metaverse.  

That in mind, I would not be surprised if Apple does announce its XR headset next month — but positioned as an experimental or a pricey niche/enterprise product, as opposed to a consumer product like the Quest. We will see. 

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