From Christopher Mims’ “Apple’s iPhone Successor Comes Into Focus” in Saturday’s paper:
If you thought the hullabaloo about Facebook’s virtual reality, and the metaverse was a lot, wait till next year. Apple is expected to unveil in 2022 something at least as attention getting: a head-mounted device that has the potential to be the next biggest thing after the iPhone.
Meta Platforms, as Facebook’s parent is now known, is focused on an alternative to our current reality, one we can disappear into on our couch. Apple is raising the stakes with what analysts say are plans for a headset or smart glasses that will offer access to a layer of information, objects and data spread across our view of the real world like so much digital pixie dust—a so-called augmented reality, or AR. While the company hasn’t disclosed its plans, analysts and other industry insiders expect Apple’s first AR device could be announced by the end of 2022.
Chief Executive Tim Cook has been talking about augmented reality for so long that it’s easy to forget just how big it could be for Apple, and for the entire tech industry. Depending on which expert you listen to, AR is either destined to be one more way we access the internet, or will subsume our experience of it completely and be an essential gateway to the metaverse that so many companies claim they are now building. In either case, the impact of an AR headset and the market for it could be huge, and several factors—from its growing prowess developing microchips to its army of loyal app developers—suggest Apple is uniquely positioned to build a moat around its AR business rather quickly, just as it did with the iPhone.
My take: In the battle between virtual and augmented, reality will win — whatever Apple does or doesn’t do.