Apple: Vision Pro headset looks good, but does not offer new ideas for VR

They build tension and then force the audience to sit through a two-hour presentation before announcing that the long-awaited, long-delayed virtual reality headsets won’t go on sale until next year.

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

Apple is a pro in classy design and quality presentations. But are VR headsets a good use of $166 billion in cash and marketable securities? Limited battery life and bulky fits continue to plague the industry. Meta’s VR division reported declining revenue and an operating loss of nearly $4 billion last quarter. Apple did not provide figures on the costs of the development.

The company’s curved, goggle-style headphones look more comfortable than most. Twelve cameras and a variety of sensors record the real world and then overlay VR on top – meaning wearers can immerse themselves in online life without tripping over their shoelaces. Instead of hand tools, the controls can be operated by hand or voice. There’s a spooky-looking display that shows the wearer’s eyes when people are around, and an annoying wire connected to an external battery pack.

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The display quality is high. The headset has 23 million pixels. As Apple says, it’s more than just a 4K TV for all intents and purposes. It’s powered by Apple’s own M2 chips and a new chip called the R1, part of its ongoing commitment to reduce reliance on third-party suppliers such as Qualcomm and Broadcom.

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

However, at $3,499, Apple didn’t price the Vision Pro as mass-consumer friendly. They are, for example, seven times more expensive than the latest version of Meta. However, the presentation was not business-oriented either. Maybe you’re hoping to start a new market for apps from third-party developers.

To displace the importance of the iPhone from Apple’s revenues, it would need to sell nearly 60 million headsets a year. This seems unlikely. Fortunately for Apple, there is room for experimentation. Last year, free cash flow was five times that of Meta. CEO Tim Cook can afford to try VR without staking Apple’s future on the technology.

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