Like it or not, Apple is getting ready to join the mixed reality bandwagon, perhaps this spring, with a device powered by an operating system called xrOS — formerly known as virtual reality.
Apple plans to take on Meta, Sony, and HTC by offering a virtual headset with a custom OS and an app store for third-party apps. The new operating system will be called xrOS, where “xr” stands for Extended Reality – a combination of virtual reality (games and video) and augmented reality (a graphical and informational overlay on the real world).
With the Meta pushing its Oculus-derived platform, Apple is trying to create its own unique metaverse. If successful (both from a technical and marketing point of view), this new XR could mean big business for Cupertino. Apple has done this before by taking significant market share from smartphones and smartwatches, and it is possible that it will do so again.
Apple’s extended reality project has been top secret as much of the project’s information comes from anonymous sources within the company, even if the operating system itself has been in development for over 5 years. bloomberg I mentioned that Apple recently hired people to create its own 3D Mixed Reality world. Even the head of engineering for iWork productivity, Notes, and the new Apple app snapped to work on the headset.
Other hints of the purpose of xrOS is that there will be virtual collaboration functionality via VR-based FaceTime. If this sounds like Meta Horizon Workrooms, you’d be right. The main focus of the use case for AR/VR companies is creating more immersive meeting experiences than regular video calls can provide.
While the Apple board got a preview of the unit earlier this year, the actual availability and launch schedule is still highly uncertain, but you can certainly expect the headset to be quite expensive with its premium design and internals. I tried Meta Quest Pro, but it didn’t make much of a dent in the market, so it will be interesting to see what Apple’s approach will be in the end.