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Apple offers a vision of a mixed reality future beyond the smartphone


Apple is expected to unveil its most important product in 13 years on Monday, when it shows off its “mixed-reality” headset, a device seven years in the making that will show a glimpse of how the tech giant is making a post-smartphone future.

The iPhone maker is widely expected to unveil a headset that resembles streamlined ski goggles that combines “virtual reality,” in which the wearer is completely immersed in a virtual world, and “augmented reality,” in which digital images are projected across the screen. laid. the real world.

The event will be held in person at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters. But like last year, it’s expected to be hosted like a movie premiere: attendees will watch a pre-recorded keynote speech that’s available to the public on YouTube.

This format is partly a legacy of Covid-19, when all such events became virtual and Apple began creating cinematic presentations that could hold more content than a live event.

But a taped presentation, which eliminates the risk of a demo going awry, also reflects the more cautious tendencies of CEO Tim Cook, who never enjoyed Steve Jobs’ product showmanship.

The device is expected to cost $3,000 — 10 times the price of the Meta Quest 2, Facebook’s parent company’s flagship VR headset, and three times the cost of Meta’s more expensive Quest Pro headset.

It’s not expected to go on sale in fiscal 2023, which ends in September — a period when analysts project Apple’s revenue to fall 2 percent to $385 billion. But next year, Apple’s sales should help drive revenues up 7 percent to $411 billion, according to Visible Alpha estimates.

As previously reported by the Financial Times, the headset is something of a compromise device. Apple’s original vision, back in 2016, was for lightweight AR glasses rather than an immersive headset. But experts across the industry say such technology is a few years away.

“There’s a really wide range of technologies that need to come together to bring this kind of device and experience into a (compact form) where you and I can walk around all day wearing smart glasses,” said Timo. Toikkanen, CEO of Varjo, a Finnish maker of high-end AR/VR headsets whose business products cost as much as $6,495.

“You need advancements in optics, energy management, thermal management (and computational power),” he added. “It’s a very complex category of products and it’s going to take a long time for all of that to happen, and then for all of that to be miniaturized.”

Tipatat Chennavasin, co-founder of the Venture Reality Fund, said it remains unclear how long it will take for such technologies to mature.

“Everyone says it’s another three to five years, but they’ve been saying it for 10 years,” he said.

Industry experts say Apple’s headset will likely be aimed at three audiences: business customers, gamers and software developers, with only later generations of the product aimed at mainstream consumers.

Because the headset will be out of reach for most, it will be a bargain for some if it replaces the need for flight simulators or surgical instruments that cost more than $1 million, said Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, whose AR headset is starting at $3,299.

“We have businesses and industries where we can provide value now – not five years from now,” she said. “There’s a return on investment in these areas (but) it’s largely the public sector, healthcare, it’s in the operating room and industrial settings.”

A price tag of $3,000 could also be a reasonable price for extreme gamers who are already comfortable spending hours in immersive environments.

Chennavasin doesn’t believe the Apple event will be anything like “the iPhone moment for XR” – short for mixed reality. Instead, he thinks it will be an assistive technology for developers: a tool that professionals can use to build apps for the next generation of glasses that will be released several years later.

“You need a MacBook to make an iPhone app,” he said. “This will be so, for AR glasses.”

A successful disclosure could catapult Apple’s share price to an all-time high. Apple’s stock is already up 45 percent year-to-date and the company is worth $2.85 trillion. It’s just 5 percent of the peak valuation of $3 trillion in early January 2022, a month before Russia invaded Ukraine and global markets spiraled downwards.

A price of $3,000 would make the headset Apple’s second most expensive product after the Mac Pro desktop which starts at $5,999.

The original iPhone in 2007 cost $599, and was widely mocked for it. But today the average selling price of an iPhone is close to $1,000 and Apple’s top models go for $1,500.

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined that we would pay $1,500 for a smartphone,” said Julie Ask, an analyst at Forrester. “We now routinely pay more for smartphones than computers.”

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