Apple Is Still Sorting Out its Mixed-Reality Headset Strategy

(Photo credit: Marco Paköeningrat/Flickr)
(Photo credit: Marco Paköeningrat/Flickr)

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Virtual reality has long been the apple of Tim Cook’s eye. But is it anyone else’s?

Apple’s long-rumored, oft-delayed virtual and augmented reality headset is finally set for public debut at this June’s World Wide Developers Conference. But a new report from Bloomberg says the company is still struggling to figure out what makes the device a must-have. In the meantime, they’re hoping shoppers will decide it’s the little things that count and over big money for the device.

iHope You Like It

Like desktops in the late 90s, MP3 players in the early aughts, smartphones in the late aughts, tablets in the early twenty-teens, and smartwatches in the late twenty-teens, the kings of Cupertino aim to sprinkle a little of that Apple magic yet again onto a hardware space still mostly populated by WIRED subscribers, Best Buy employees, and habitual early adopters with discretionary spending capabilities. Indeed, of any product class, VR headsets are perhaps the most primed for a sleek disruptor. Despite spending billions, Meta-née-Facebook has struggled to consistently move their headsets into homes. Meanwhile, the launch of Sony’s Playstation VR2, released in February, has been something close to an outright disaster.

Apple has an even bigger sell to make for its new device. Literally. The headset, internally dubbed the Reality Pro or Reality One, is rumored to retail for a whopping $3,000 (Meta recently slashed the price of its top-of-the-line Meta Quest Pro from $1,499 to $999). Instead of waiting for a killer app or tying their fates to a watered-down version of The Sims, Apple is hoping a more-is-more approach can propel its latest hardware venture into the mainstream. According to Bloomberg, marquee features for the Reality Pro/One include:

  • VR/AR versions of existing first-party Apple apps like Message, FaceTime, Mail, Books, Maps, Weather, Music, Notes, Camera, Photos, and all the other ones you have shoved in a folder on the third page of your iPhone home screen; revamped Wellness and Fitness+ experiences; plus the ability to run hundreds of thousands of already existing third-party iPad apps.
  • That’s in addition to virtual meeting rooms with realistic avatars (that hopefully have legs), the ability to use the headset as an extra Mac monitor, plus a new vertical for watching sports in virtual reality, among a litany of other features.

The wide-net strategy is not new for the company. As Bloomberg notes, it’s quite similar to what the company employed when initially pitching its Apple Watch, a device that started life with an equally nebulous case for essentiality.

Pocket Change: Everyone knows VR headsets are often clunky and uncomfortable. But the Reality Pro/One may avoid the fatal design flaw thanks to some classic Apple ingenuity. To reduce the load borne by users’ crania, Bloomberg reports that Apple is offloading the battery into a small pack that will be carried in a user’s pocket. Steve Jobs would actually be proud of this one.