Apple's Silence On VR Is Ominous

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Apple's Silence On VR Is Ominous
February 7, 2017

Apple has a history of playing it cool before swooping in to dominate new markets; the firm was not the first to launch an MP3 player. It was not the first to unveil a smartphone. Ditto with tablets, and most recently with wearables.

 

In fact, Apple is well-known for being late to the party in almost all major device categories before becoming the dominant player in that market, most spectacularly with the iPhone which remains the firm's cash cow.

 

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Of course, the obsession with Apple means there is endless speculation about what the Next Big Thing is that the company is working on. An Apple Car has long been rumoured, but reports last year said it had stalled, possibly indefinitely.

 

There is also a school of thought that Apple will launch a stand-alone voice assistant like Amazon's Alexa system. But as Apple CEO Tim Cook noted last week on an earnings call, Apple already has countless millions of devices in the market with Siri installed and is averaging two billion requests a week.

As such it's already a major player in this market, people just don't realise it. I'd wager a big update to Siri is in the works, possibly to launch with the iPhone 8, so that it can truly rival Alexa and Google Assistant.

However, the biggest arena in which Apple's effort remain unknown is virtual reality. Tim Cook has acknowledged the potential in the past, saying "it's really cool and has some interesting applications," but its true intentions remain unknown.

 

This is probably because right now Apple does see the need to be hasty, likely seeing the VR market as too nascent and undeveloped. But this, as noted, is exactly how Apple likes it.

 

The iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch have shown Apple does not look to fight it out in the early stages of a product's growth but will watch and wait while perfecting its own ideas of what a product should be.

 

That's why the iPhone was completely touch screen when many others devices still had keyboards, or why the Apple Watch uses the ‘digital crown' on the side to aide interactions, a feature that seemed blindingly obvious was first unveiled, but was not found on any existing devices.

 

As such I would not be surprised at all if in the next 12-24 months Apple unveils a VR headset that suddenly makes all the others on the market look clunky and outdated, leaving the competition for dead.

 

Indeed, there are already rumours Apple is working with Carl Zeiss on augmented reality glasses, and there's no suggestion virtual reality won't follow, especially with some reports suggesting VR will be worth $120bn by as soon as 2020.

 

It would be churlish to imagine there won't be an active focus on VR within Apple, as the company will know well the risks of missing a major computing trend, as their rivals at Microsoft known too well after their mobile misstep.

 

For the likes of Google, Microsoft, HTC and so on, there must be an element of deep frustration in knowing that for all their hard work pushing a new technology to market their biggest rival can watch and wait before swooping in.

 

It might not happen, of course. Apple can't get everything right. The Apple Watch, although the most popular wearable on the market, has not ignited broader interest in this form factor had been expected.

 

Or, like the Apple Car, Apple's execs may look at VR and just think it's just not for them. Or some new up-and-coming unknown start-up will wow the market with a device that catches everyone by surprise.

 

Or perhaps the world's biggest company, which just posted a profit of $18bn, and has a rich history of dominating a market despite rarely, if ever, being first to launch, is exactly where it wants to be for the AR/VR revolution.  

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