Apple is seldom the first to arrive at a party, but it knows how to make a grand entrance when it does show up.
After years of delays, rumors, speculation, and hype, Apple finally unveiled its mixed-reality headset, dubbed Vision Pro and set for launch sometime early next year. The Cupertino company’s share price briefly shot to a record high of $184.36 during intraday trading, with some speculating its market cap could soon kiss $3 trillion. But can a ridiculously expensive piece of hardware — carrying a launch price of $3,499 — higher than most expectations — actually become tech’s Next Big Thing?
Through the Looking Glass
When confronted with the choice of reality or the metaverse, it seems Apple is effectively asking “Why choose at all?” Like Meta’s headsets, the Vision Pro will allow users to dive into (supposedly) immersive virtual worlds. But unlike typical VR headsets, the Vision Pro uses an array of high-powered outward-facing cameras, super-HD screens, and a hefty dose of computing power to channel real-world surroundings back at the user — effectively allowing wearers to interface with both reality and typical Apple app mainstays, like FaceTime, Apple TV, and Safari, all at once (thousands of third-party iPhone and iPad apps will also be available for Vision Pro use at launch, Apple says). Meanwhile, the device’s outward-facing screens project live feeds of the wearer’s eyes, making it appear as if they’re merely wearing some souped-up ski goggles.
Still, Apple’s device could fairly be described as prohibitively expensive (though it is billed as something of an alternative to also-expensive laptops and desktops). At $3,499, the Vision Pro is about 12 times the price of the best-selling VR headset of all time, the Meta Quest 2. But that’s not exactly a difficult title to hold, with demand for Meta’s headsets having already all but dropped off a very real cliff. Shipments for the Meta Quest product line declined by over 90% year-over-year in Q4 2022, according to estimates from International Data Corp., to around just 310,000.
Can Apple effectively expand a niche market into the mainstream simply with sleek design? So far, analysts, perhaps looking at the impact of the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, are leaning toward bearishness, at least in the immediate future:
- “Nobody expects this to be a financially meaningful product near-term,” Rosenblatt Securities analyst Barton Crockett wrote in a note. “But the hope is that it will look like an interesting effort that can gain momentum over time.”
- How much momentum? “AR/VR has the potential to become Apple’s next $20 billion-plus compute platform,” Morgan Stanley analyst Erik Woodring wrote in a note to clients just ahead of the launch event.
Despite the trading spike and some analysts upping their pricing guidance ahead of the event to north of $190 a share, Apple’s share price settled slightly down at $179.58.
The Best of the Rest: Apple’s biggest product event in years wasn’t just about the Vision Pro. Along the way, the company also outlined the next major iOS software update, a new line of MacBook Airs, and a $7,000 Mac Pro desktop. So the reality is, before you get your hands on Vision Pro, you’ll have to upgrade your old device — and then take out a loan.