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FUTURE TECH

Next up for Apple: a standalone VR headset?

The biggest tech company in the world is reportedly working on developing a high-end virtual reality headset to debut in 2022

A lot of people must have thought if Apple as a company would be able to maintain its niche market presence in the fledgling smartphone industry (at the time) when its visionary co-founder, Steve Jobs, died in 2011. Jobs was basically behind turning the fortunes of a company on the brink of bankruptcy (1997) to make it into a smartphone giant at the time of his demise (2011). His innovative spirit put Apple on a progressive path where it stands today.

While the Cupertino tech giant’s core business model still revolves around the iPhones which bring in the most revenue, it has successfully ventured into other products & services — streaming, digital payments, wearables and the list continues to grow. It hasn’t become the most valuable & the first $2 trillion U.S company just like that.

It seems like the company is becoming ever so ambitious with every successful venture. One thing that Apple has done well is with building a loyal customer base, which is probably the main reason behind its successful ventures. The thing that I don’t like though is the secrecy it keeps shrouded around its upcoming products and services. Earlier last month, I wrote about how Apple is moving forward with its self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to launch such a vehicle.

Although Apple declined to comment then, carmakers like Hyundai have come forward to confirm that the tech giant is in early-stage talks with them for the development of a self-driving car. Anyway, we are not here to talk about that issue today. It’s something else Apple is reportedly working on — a high-end virtual reality headset for a potential sales debut in 2022.

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The report by Bloomberg suggests that Apple is planning to launch a virtual reality (VR) headset with some augmented reality (AR) functionalities next year. According to the design specs, the futuristic tech would include its own built-in processors and power supply & could feature a chip even more powerful than the M1 Apple Silicon processor — the one that the company currently ships on its MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Considering the advanced tech being used, the wearable is not going to come in cheap. Sources suggest that the niche product with advanced chips will be priced higher than those from rivals like Facebook, Sony and HTC. The VR headset market has been slow to take off, probably because the main utility is right now is seen in the gaming market only.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Quarterly Augmented and Virtual Reality Headset Tracker, the market for virtual reality (VR) headsets is expected to decline 6.7% in 2020 before returning to double-digit growth of 46.2% in 2021. Looking at the data, it seems Apple has its eyes set on the future growth of this market segment. Also with a price tag that goes up to $1,000 — the intent of selling right now, seems to be a niche device aimed at specialist customers.

Further details from the report point to a headset with the same size as the Oculus Quest (Facebook), with a fabric exterior to help reduce weight. The external cameras could also be used for environmental and hand tracking and it is also being speculated that Apple will eventually debut with its own App Store designed specifically for VR content.

While the Oculus Quest and the PlayStation VR (Sony) dominate the VR headset market (chart above), Apple’s endeavor to create a similar high-tech, high-performance and high-priced device seems to be aimed at cashing in at the long-term value. In the interim period, it wants to develop efficiencies and scale up the product for producing more mass-market devices later. I think I am just going to wait for that time.

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