Apple Vision Pro open for pre-orders: will it reboot the metaverse?

After years of rumors and hype, Apple’s first computer headset, the Vision Pro, is now available for U.S. customers to pre-order on the Apple Store online (with sales starting in physical Apple Stores on Feb. 2nd).

Initial reviews of the device have been promising, but the hefty price tag ($3,499 up-front or $291.58 financed in 12 monthly installments) is of course a barrier to entry for those outside the high-income bracket (and that’s not even counting the extra $149 ZEISS Optical Inserts that are needed for those with glasses prescriptions).

There’s no signs of “virtual reality,” “augmented reality,” or “mixed reality” in Apple’s marketing for this headset that displays computer graphics in front of the user’s eyes with a 23 million-pixel Micro-OLED display and a “12‑millisecond photon‑to‑photon latency.”

Nor are there any mentions of the “Metaverse,” the name conceived by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in his seminal 1992 cyberpunk dystopian novel Snow Crash and which inspired Facebook to change its entire parent company name to Meta.

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Instead, Apple prefers to use the term “spatial computing” for this device, and it does make some sense, given it can display computer graphics and overlays in front of the real physical space in front of you.

Yet the Apple Vision Pro may be the device that finally brings all of these concepts — the Metaverse, VR/AR/XR — to a more mainstream audience, or at least more of a public awareness. Is “spatial computing” a more approachable, accessible friendly name for consumers to start embracing all these technologies?

Apple’s chief competition so far in the space is Meta itself with its Quest 3 headset which retails for a much more affordable $499.99, but Meta suffered years of bad PR for its initial “Horizons World” graphics that looked rudimentary and where avatars lacked legs for a while.

Other potential players such as Microsoft with its Hololens and Google with its Glass and Cardboard headsets have all fallen by the wayside all those companies canceled or deprioritized those headsets in favor of mobile devices and more cloud-based apps and software.

Apple has also already lined up a long list of content partners including Disney and Warner Brothers to provide immersive media such as 3D movies in its headset, including Dune and Avatar: The Way of Water, potentially making it more enticing for cinemaphiles. Naturally, Apple TV+ content will also be available to stream in it.

But Meta has a host of partners and integrations, too, and access to popular games such as Roblox and Beat Saber in the Quest 3. So far, Meta says it has sold more than 20 million Quest headsets across all generations.

Recently, though, the company has shown indications that its leadership under founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has prioritized artificial intelligence (AI) and specifically, artificial generalized intelligence (AGI), over its “Reality Labs” division.

And according to a report from CNBC last month, sales of headsets overall across brands plunged 40% year-over-year to $664 million in 2023, following a 2% decline the year before.

The big question is if Apple, a consistent market mover when it enters (or invents) a new computing category, can turn that around with this lavishly priced new device?

And will third-party developers sink money and time and effort into building new experiences for the Apple Vision Pro and/or Meta Quest? Will they see enough potential audience for that to be worthwhile?

Fi nally: are you ordering one? Vote below:

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