3 reasons why Tim Cook could create a multibillion-dollar entertainment industry with Apple's new headset
- Apple showed off its cutting edge, $3,500 mixed-reality headset on Monday.
- Many a pundit will look at the price and predict its demise.
My daughter uses her VR headset to smash boxes with a saber, weave around obstacle courses, dance, and kill zombies. She's an avid gamer who has the latest Xbox and PlayStation, along with a towering PC rig for gaming.
My uncle uses his VR headset to travel the world, now that his health has become too fragile to visit Africa on safari, tour India, or roam the streets of Paris like he once did.
I, on the other hand, am your classic puzzle-game type who would much rather enter fantastical lands by reading a book, or watching a movie, than covering my eyes with a gadget. So far, the VR experience hasn't been great for me. I wear glasses or contacts and it's always a bit blurry in there, or (if I'm honest) sometimes, a bit dull. I can look around, but why?
Even so, I can't wait to try Apple's Vision Pro headset and I'm hoping, despite the $3,500 price, that it will be the headset for me. Eventually.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has a chance to bring me and millions of other people who aren't gamers, into an exciting new world. I don't really want to kill zombies.
What I want is Star Trek's holodeck: I want to be in the room when Mr. Darcy spars with Elizabeth Bennet. I want to belt out a rock and roll song on a huge stage in front of thousands of fans, even though I don't play an instrument. I want to finally learn how to fix the derailleur on my bike without having to actually risk breaking the real derailleur.
I believe that there's an opportunity to create a completely new kind of information-and-entertainment system that appeals to people like me. This has the potential to be a multibillion-dollar market beyond the realm of hardcore gamers.
And I think that Apple is uniquely positioned to do it, unlike Meta or Microsoft, for three reasons:
1. First-class hardware of the type that Apple alone is known for. Apple has designed powerful new chips, along with the operating system and the device itself. It promises to be comfortable to wear with adjustments for all sorts of eyes and vision needs.
2. A vast library of games and utility software from thousands of third-party developers. Apple, with its vast network of hundreds of thousands of app developers, is in a unique situation to call upon them. It has already released 100 of its own arcade games for the Vision Pro headset and announced a partnership with Disney. Watching "The Mandalorian" with the device appears to be the kind of immersive entertainment I'm dreaming of. And it has announced a partnership with the leader of VR development tools, Unity, in addition to launching new tools for Apple developers who want to explore making apps for the device.
3. 3D movies designed by storytellers that understand the medium. Putting someone inside a movie requires different storytelling expertise than a flat screen. Such stories must guide the person to be looking where they need to look when key action unfolds, or to react in specified ways if their involvement is necessary. Apple, with its connections to Hollywood storytellers via Apple TV, is well-positioned for this in a way that, say, Microsoft with Hololens is not. Apple's partnership with Disney for the Vision Pro is a good example.
While some may pooh-pooh the chances of this device, particularly with its astounding cost, and predict its fast demise, I disagree. In a few years, perhaps a decade, Apple will have all the pieces firing, and for a more reasonable price. Apple under Cook has historically been patient with its hardware devices in new markets, and Cook must know that in this case, extra patience is required.
And Apple may be the only company in the world that can tease out the promise of virtual reality/augmented reality for mass consumer appeal. I for one, am rooting for it.
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