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Apple: Vision Pro headset looks good, but doesn’t offer new ideas for VR


Tension builds, and then your audience is forced to sit through a two-hour presentation before announcing that your much-anticipated, long-awaited virtual reality headsets won’t go on sale until next year.

By the time Apple unveiled its VR goggles on Monday, the stock price had lost its intraday all-time high. Likely culprits include a lack of engaging content, a high price tag, and the 2024 launch date.

Apple is a professional in stylish design and quality presentations. But are VR headsets a good use of the $166 billion in cash and negotiable securities? Limited battery life and bulky fits continue to plague the industry. Meta’s VR unit reported declining revenue and an operating loss of nearly $4 billion in the past quarter. Apple hasn’t broken down numbers showing the cost of development.

The company’s curved goggle-style headsets look more comfortable than most. Twelve cameras and several sensors film the real world and then overlay VR – meaning wearers can be immersed in online life without tripping over their shoelaces. Instead of handheld devices, the controls are activated by hand or by voice. There’s a ghostly-looking display that shows the wearer’s eyes when people are around and a nasty wire connected to an external battery.

The display quality is high. The headset has 23 million pixels. As Apple says, that’s more than a 4K TV for every eye. It’s powered by Apple’s own M2 chips and a new chip called R1, part of its ongoing determination to reduce dependence on third-party vendors like Qualcomm and Broadcom.

Apple is rarely first on the block. LG Electronics released a touchscreen smartphone before the iPhone and Samsung sold smartwatches before the Apple Watch. But it has a record of selling popular, high-quality versions of hardware.

However, at $3,499, Apple hasn’t priced its Vision Pro to be mass consumer-friendly. For example, they are seven times more expensive than the latest version of Meta. Yet the presentation was not business-oriented either. Perhaps it hopes to spark a new market of apps from third-party developers.

To displace the iPhone’s importance to Apple’s revenue, it would need to sell nearly 60 million headsets a year. This seems unlikely. Fortunately for Apple, it has the resources to experiment. Free cash flow was five times that of Meta last year. Chief executive Tim Cook can afford to try out VR without betting Apple’s future on the technology.

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