Apple's approach to the metaverse would likely be different from that of Meta, which has proclaimed it the future of the internet but slowed its substantial investments as part of overall belt-tightening
Tim Cook's version of AR emphasizes a world in which an Apple product could "overlay" the real one with virtual imagery to create something better. Image: Noah Berger / AFP
Apple fans are watching to see whether the iPhone-maker puts a culture-changing spin on virtual reality, even as rivals slow their march toward the metaverse.
All eyes are on whether Apple will commit to releasing long-rumored VR or augmented reality (AR) "goggles" at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, with programmers and software companies eager to get a jump start on providing content.
Apple chief Tim Cook fueled the speculation this week in a GQ interview, saying AR is "exciting" and that the company has a history of going its own way with innovations, even amid doubts and criticism.
"I'm not interested in putting together pieces of somebody else's stuff," he told GQ, saying that the release of the iPhone and Apple Watch both had their serious detractors.
Cook did not confirm plans for Apple eyewear, instead focusing more broadly on the promise of VR or augmented reality and defending the time it would take to release a product to market.
"Apple is going to try to put its spin on it, and then lead others to water," Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said of products for augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR).
"We all know that once Apple gets into something, others follow."
Apple Music concerts?
Apple's approach to the metaverse would likely be different from that of Meta, which has proclaimed it the future of the internet but slowed its substantial investments as part of overall belt tightening.
Cook's version of AR emphasizes a world in which an Apple product could "overlay" the real one with virtual imagery to create something better.
Meta's experience with the metaverse has been humbling despite it being a leader in the emergent sector.
Gear from its Quest unit accounted for more than 80 percent of the "mixed reality" headset shipments at the end of last year, according to market-tracker Counterpoint.
But less than 18 months after changing its name to Meta to reflect a metaverse priority, the Facebook giant has fired tens of thousands of staff and promised to get back to basics.
Meta's false start follows the failure of Google Glass, the decade long effort by the search engine giant that was mothballed for good last month.
"What Meta wants to do and what Apple wants to do are two different things," Milanesi said.
Meta is out to create an immersive, digital form of Facebook which relies on advertising to make money, she noted.