Apple is reportedly launching its Reality Pro smart goggles in June, combining VR and AR.
Smart goggles are a tough market, with Google and Microsoft hitting major roadblocks in their efforts.
Experts say that if Apple can't bring these headsets to the mainstream, nobody can. But the potential payoff is huge.
The reported introduction of Apple's Reality Pro smart goggles in June is getting closer, stirring up much speculation around whether the iPhone giant can deliver another hit.
Former and current employees are reportedly concerned about the lofty $3,000 price tag, the bulky design of the headset, and more importantly whether Apple customers will take a shine to it, according to the New York Times. The market for so-called augmented reality and virtual reality is still yet unproven, leading to dissent.
Big name companies like Google, Meta, and Microsoft have tried their hand and, to some degree, failed. Microsoft and Google have both positioned their HoloLens and Glass goggles, respectively, as being ideal for enterprise markets. But in both cases, they've hit turbulence. Google went so far as to cancel the Google Glass Enterprise Edition entirely.
That makes Apple's entry into this market tricky. Experts say that it's sort of a now-or-never moment: Apple has an uphill climb ahead of it, as it tries to make this headset the next big thing in its product lineup. But if Apple can pull it off, it could be the shot in the arm that brings the whole so-called "extended reality" (XR) market roaring back to life.
Apple has a knack for showing its competitors what's possible with any new technology, proving out what consumers like (or don't). In the same way that the success of the iPhone paved the way for Google to build Android, this headset could be the start of something bigger.
"Typically, whenever Apple enters a market, it's been the tide that lifts all boats," said Jitesh Urbani, a research manager at International Data Corporation.
"It brings a whole lot of recognition and reassurance to the market to let both investors and consumers know that this is the next big thing," he added.
Apple Watch paved the way
For example, smart watches were out for years before the Apple Watch turned up. The fitness tracking watch Fitbit came out in 2009. By 2013, Samsung followed suit. It took the Apple Watch to bring the concept into the mainstream. As with most things, nobody cares for it until the cool kid says it's cool.
The Apple Watch launched in 2015 and suddenly demand for smartwatches boomed. Worldwide smartwatch sales went from 5 million in 2014 to 19 million in 2015 to double that amount in 2016, according to Statista data.
The market for headsets is arguably in a similar situation as the pre-Apple smart watch industry. Companies like Microsoft and Google have invested billions, but still haven't been able to crack the code. It's led to a sort of skepticism around the technology, as Silicon Valley has started to cool on its investments.
Where Big Tech names like Google and Microsoft have gained traction is with government and enterprise contracts. Microsoft's AR headset, HoloLens, which launched for enterprise clients in 2016 helped it score a multi-billion-dollar deal with the US army in 2021. Google Glass Enterprise Edition lasted six years before being discontinued again in 2023.
Meta, on the other hand, found success in the gaming industry. It released its Meta Quest 2 headset in 2020 and in the course of two years has become the most popular headset on the consumer market — but primarily for gaming, making it a niche product rather than a mainstream smash hit.
All of which is to say: Stay tuned. If anyone can build this market, the experts agree, it's Apple. It just remains to be seen how high it raises the tide.
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