Apple’s Next Major Product (AAPL), an AR/VR headset, is expected to be featured at his WWDC event in June. And that puts the company and CEO Tim Cook on a direct collision course with market leader Meta.
In an interview with GQ, Cook lays out his vision for an AR/VR headset and how it could help consumers. And, likely to the chagrin of Meta (META) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Cook says the device could “greatly improve people’s communication, people’s connection.”
While he doesn’t mention Meta, or confirm that a headset is on the way, Cook’s statement is nonetheless a shot at the company’s bow. Zuckerberg and the company have been working on their AR/VR headsets for years, ever since the company acquired headset maker Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion.
Part of that effort has been developing the metaverse, a series of interconnected online worlds where users can—you guessed it—communicate and connect.
Meta currently offers its Meta Horizon Worlds, a sort of early version of the metaverse where users can meet up as virtual avatars and play games, watch concerts, or just hang out and chat. Meta is also collaborating with Microsoft (MSFT) to bring that company’s Teams and Microsoft 365 productivity apps to its Quest headsets.
While Meta’s efforts are largely VR-based at the moment, Zuckerberg’s ultimate goal is to create a lightweight headset that can superimpose the virtual world onto the physical world via augmented reality. And that’s exactly what Cook is thinking.
“It’s the idea that there is this environment that can be even better than the real world; layering the virtual world on top could be an even better world,” Cook said.
That’s exactly the kind of world Meta and Zuckerberg hope to occupy as well. The company already has a decent lead over Apple, with 22 million Quest headsets in circulation. But Apple has already shown time and time again that it can enter an established space as a newcomer and effectively take over to become the dominant force.
Look no further than the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods are proof that Apple can take on a headline and leave it in the dust.
Apple and Meta have a bitter relationship. The iPhone maker’s privacy stance has limited Meta’s ability to track users as they browse the web via Safari or between apps via its App Tracking Transparency (ATT). ATT allows users to choose whether they want apps to track them in other apps and on the web. Opting out means Meta doesn’t see consumers’ browsing habits as well, which hurts its ability to sell targeted ads.
Meta estimates that the feature cost the company up to $10 billion in 2022 alone.
Meta now appears to be overcoming that hurdle, but is now facing a slowdown in the digital advertising market.
Cook has also repeatedly called out app developers for hoovering user data, addressing the issue during press events and university commencement speeches.
Meta, for his part, hit back at Apple, helping Epic Games in its antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant. In that lawsuit, Epic challenged Apple’s ability to force app creators to use their own Apple Store payment methods.
For now, Meta remains the AR/VR market leader. But with Apple headphones on the way. All of that could change soon.
By daniel howley, technology editor at Yahoo Finance. FOLLOW HIM @DanielHowley
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