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The VR Wars (Meta Oculus, Apple VR, Project Iris [Google])

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Consider this speculation until more sources are readily available

The VR Wars (as I am calling them), is very reminiscent of the console wars between Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo. Virtual Reality is the new king-of-the-hill battle royale.

First to market is Meta’s Oculus. It helps the tech was available to Facebook/Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg at $2 billion back in 2014. So they definitely have a leg up. Since purchase, they have released several iterations, most recent, the Oculus Quest 2, with rumors of the Quest 3 (“Project Cambria”) to be released within the next year. Apple is working diligently on their iteration of a VR headset and eagerly projecting a release date of late 2022 to early 2023. Google’s hat to be tossed into the ring Project Iris, is rumored to be in the works and is hoping to hit consumer markets in 2024. “Metaverse” is now looking to be more of a universal term for virtual reality versus Meta having the strong hold on the term as a branding ploy. Frankly, I would like to think the other two competitors would look for a more global term for virtual worlds rather than leaning into Meta’s infant foothold. This would allow for the average consumer to break free from the indoctrination of the term associating all virtual worlds back to Meta. This could very well be a far-fetched dreamscape as most consumers already relate anything VR to Meta/Facebook, but here’s to hoping.

Initial speculations are showing Google’s hesitation jumping into the ring, as previous works in VR/AR has not panned out well, or even performed to the minimum projections they had been hoping for. Think back to Google Glass, the wearable tech (eyeglasses) that would overlay what we now have in Google Lens in mobile devices. In practical application, it made sense, and showed plenty of promise and benefit. Personally, I think it was slightly ahead of its time and the average consumer wasn’t ready for it.

Google Glass shown, not representative of new VR/AR project iris
Photo credit : Google

If it would have stayed in development, and released within the past couple of years to present, it would have done much better. Looking at everyone who has wearable tech now, primarily smartwatches. With that said Google does have historical repertoire in the space and have advanced a lot of their AR tech stack in mobile devices. They could easily play to their strengths building off their perceived failures and existing successes. Furthermore, Google already knows so much about all the consumers, it would make sense for them to leverage the harvested first party data. The ongoing joke that Google knows everything about everyone, might as well let them do as they wish and the end user reaps the benefits (along with the dystopian big brother fears).

The speculation around Apple’s development has been wildly varied. From cost, design, release, and specifications. The largest takeaway that is both alarming and undesirable is the rumored price point. Apple products for decades has been perceived to be luxury items. Always inflating their end user pricing, and within the past few years being an advocate of “user privacy.” Without inundating this post with my own personal opinions of the Apple model, there are two things concerning about the pricing of their offering. For one, it is presumed their VR/AR offerings could be in the ballpark of $3k (with a potential subscription service). The second point that is concerning (if this pricing model turns out to be legitimate) is people will pay this. Not for the tech, but because of the status appeal. Don’t get me wrong, they will have some top level tech in their devices, but I can only assume by the time they release their devices, there’s a good chance they have been surpassed by competitors. This has happened numerous times in the mobile phone arena.

Artist rendering
Photo credit : Apple Insider

Lastly, thinking to the point they are taking user privacy to heart is laughable. Again, attempting to restrain my personal opinions, but the only thing Apple has done is allowed their users to removed the ability for advertisers to personalize ads for their preferences. They have spun their agenda to make them appear to be the hero by removing ads from platforms altogether. They did not use that language explicitly, but Apple lied to their consumers. It seems like it worked, because from what I have seen only advertisers are upset about it. Which begs the question how attune are Apple users in general. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Meta has the upper hand with approximately 10 Million units sold by mid November 2021. In the next year or two when Apple and Google are geared to release their headsets, there’s a good chance Meta has doubled or tripled this number with the added new Quest 3 headset release. No matter which way you slice it, Google and Apple have an uphill battle. Both have their own illustrious brands with consumer perceptions. Apple as the “user friendly” and Google as the “know-it-all.”

Modernized Apple Vs. Google

If this war is to be won, will it boil down to price, tech, or status? There’s still a lot of time, questions, and development before we will see actual competitive answers/analysis. I could see Apple taking the short win using a subscription service, similar to their mobile pay-to-own plans and lumping VR into it. Which would give them ongoing revenue. Let’s not even think about insurance claims and protection plans. Contracts galore.

Google could cripple the market with their previous attempts at AR and including existing successful tech in their headsets. This working in conjunction with all of their owned/earned first party data. They could easily compile the experience to every end user, creating the best possible consumer curated experience. The internet is slowly abandoning the cookie, but Google has been making drastic strides focusing on the user cohort. This could make the bucketing of user data into the VR realm that much more customized and curated for every end user. All of this combined with the rumored price to be available to everyone. It is assumed this will be either at the same price of Oculus devices or less, to ensure market capitalization.

Overall it is a very exciting time. Like the early console wars, VR/AR is the new battlefield, and we will have to wait and see who will claim victory. As a Meta Oculus Quest 2 owner, I am excited to see what these competitors bring to the arena, and what they will do to shape the landscape.


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