One term that tech-watchers have heard more over the last few months than they might care in mention, is “metaverse”.
The notion of an immersive digital world in which people live, work and play using virtual avatars might seem to some a natural ‘next step’ for our relationship with the online space. But for others, there are concerns about why ‘big tech’ seems to be pushing it quite so strongly.
You would pretty much need to have been living on an isolated desert island since October last year to not know about Facebook (the company behind the social network – the social media site itself having retained its familiar name) being rebranded Meta. That, in turn, has vaulted talk of the ‘metaverse’ – what it is, what it could look like, and whether we even want it – further into the public consciousness.
We do know that the term “metaverse” is strongly related to emerging augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies – but is every tech giant as excited about it?
Reports in recent days suggest a certain amount of ambiguity from Apple. Earlier this week, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman suggested that even amid speculation about the release of an Apple mixed-reality headset potentially as soon as this year, the Cupertino firm might refrain from associating any such product explicitly with the metaverse.
In an excerpt from his weekly Power On newsletter that he subsequently shared on Twitter, Gurman commented: “I’ve been told pretty directly that the idea of a completely virtual world where users can escape to – like they can in Meta Platforms/Facebook’s vision of the future – is off limits from Apple.”
Gurman said that Apple executives had pushed against the notion of a VR headset as an all-day device, in favor of its use for “bursts of gaming, communication and content consumption.”
He continued: “The augmented-reality headset is Apple’s real priority because it can be worn all day and, naturally, not take anyone out of their real environment.”
So, how does the above tally with today’s Wall Street Journal story entitled “Apple’s Metaverse Prospects Produce Real Optimism For Investors”?
In short, it’s not necessarily such a contradiction. In it, the newspaper’s Tim Higgins acknowledges that Apple “may not have triggered the current buzz about the metaverse, but the company is reaping the benefit.”
Higgins goes on to state that “investors and analysts say they are betting that Apple will introduce extended reality devices in the next year or so and open up potential for a new leg of growth in coming years.”
The article also cites long-established Apple analyst, Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty, as saying that “in conversations with venture-backed AR/VR companies, the consensus view is that the real catalyst for mass market AR/VR adoption will come when Apple enters the market.” As recently as last month, Huberty upgraded her price target for Apple stock to account for those product lines.
In other words? While, to mirror Gurman’s words, we would be surprised to hear Apple actually utter the word “metaverse” in its unveiling of any rumored headset, we also don’t expect it to just sit back while other tech titans seize upon this latest technological frontier.
Apple will surely engage with the metaverse – or at least “mixed reality” – in its own way, and we can’t wait to see what emerges from that distinct philosophy in the months and years ahead.