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Apple's first mixed reality headset is expensive, but the company has high hopes

The big picture: Apple’s first-gen mixed reality device is expensive and won’t ship until sometime next year, but the company seems confident it will sell more than one million units within one year of launch. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is scrambling to become the Android of mixed reality experiences, and is expected to launch an XR headset internally called Project Cambria sometime in the next few months.

Apple is expected to unveil its mixed reality headset sometime in January 2023, and the rumor mill has been flooding the rumor mill in recent months about it hint. On the one hand, the Cupertino giant will allegedly rely on the Chinese market to launch the new device to improve its chances of success. Presumably, Chinese consumers have a greater appetite for exotic, aspirational products like AR/VR headsets.

Well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the company has high hopes for the mysterious device as it plans to ship about 1.5 million units by the end of 2023. Kuo believes this will be Apple’s “next revolutionary consumer electronics product after the iPhone,” an ambitious boast.

January’s media event should convince investors that Apple’s innovation is alive and well and that it can still launch products that invite copycats to replicate every aspect of the user experience. The company will also broadly discuss use cases, ergonomics and software development opportunities around mixed reality headsets.

Guo said Apple A price tag for the new device hasn’t been decided yet, but it’s likely to be in the $2,000 to $2,500 range. In theory, it could be higher, but the company doesn’t want to risk missing its goal of shipping 1.5 million headphones by the end of next year.

Meanwhile, Apple is working on a more affordable mixed reality device, but it won’t be ready until 2025 or later. Additionally, the company will reportedly launch an AR-only headset in 2024, which should be a decade-long transition from the iPhone.

Apple showed off the first-generation Mixed Reality headsets arriving in May, but we don’t know much about the hardware that powers these devices. According to several supply chain insiders, the device will use a custom chip with processing power similar to the M-series chipset in the latest MacBook Pro update. Engineers face various challenges dealing with thermal management and digital signal processing of camera inputs. There is speculation that Apple will use an 8K display on the headset, which is another challenge.

This month, South Korean publication The Elec was informed that Samsung and LG are developing OLED on Silicon (OLEDoS) technology designed for augmented and virtual reality applications. Compared to conventional OLED technology, this type of microdisplay is thinner and can achieve higher pixel densities, thanks to its silicon substrate.

For example, Samsung plans to achieve a pixel density of over 3,000 ppi and a maximum display brightness of 10,000 nits by 2024. The two companies have already laid the foundation for LEDoS technology with higher pixel density. However, Sony is currently the leading OLEDoS maker, and so far analysts see it as the preferred supplier for Apple’s first-generation mixed reality headset.

In terms of software, Apple is better at keeping secrets. We know that Cupertino might call it “realityOS,” thanks to some obscure references the developers found through the App Store’s upload logs and source code. But that’s all.

Overall, it looks like Apple will soon be dabbling in consumer mixed reality, where companies like Google and Microsoft have had little success. The Cupertino giant seems determined, even hiring Andrea Schubert, former Reality Labs and Oculus hardware communications director at Meta.

Speaking of Meta, no other company is investing more in AR/VR. The social media giant recently went through an expensive rebranding process and burned through billions of dollars Rapidly transformed from a company focused on social media to one centered on conquering the virtual world.

The Metaverse concept relies so heavily on augmented and virtual reality that the reordering chaos that comes with the Meta is affecting employee morale. For Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, his company is now in a “profound philosophical competition” with Apple — a competition that will define the future of the internet and shape the mixed reality ecosystem. In other words, it will also determine the fate of Meta as a company.

Also read: Metaverse: What is it and why should you care?

Zuckerberg sees Apple as a direct competitor and wants to apply the same principles as iOS and the App Store to create a closed mixed reality ecosystem. At the same time, Meta is trying to build something akin to Android or Windows, where multiple partners can develop their own ideas, embodied in various hardware products and services.

Tim Cook’s view is that this kind of mixed reality will only be a part of Apple’s future, and it’s already popular on the iPhone and iPad. What’s more, Cook expects to retire as early as 2025 — but before he has a chance to oversee the launch of “a major new product category.”

While he may disagree with Zuckerberg on the future of the internet, it will be interesting to see if a Cook-driven Apple can reproduce the iPhone’s massive success interesting.

Photo credit: Dima Solomin



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