We are living in exciting times. 2016 is THE big year for VR. The year that it finally reaches the consumers. First with the launch of the Oculus Rift and the HTC VIVE, then with the Playstation VR and finally next month when Google throws its hat into the ring with its Daydream VR platform.
VR is finally approachable for everybody and it’s here to stay. Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2025 it is going to be a $35 billion annual industry and the big money will be made by the platforms and ecosystems that facilitate VR experiences, just like it is the case now in the smartphone app industry.
So it does not come as a surprise that the big players in technology are all here, lining up to snatch away the biggest part of the cake as quickly as possible.
Google is aggressively going for VR with the Daydream platform, bringing it to as many people as possible by selling very affordable headsets and making sure that users get high quality experiences. It’s a smart move that Google wants to replicate its success of the Android system to Virtual Reality. And chances are high they will succeed.
Facebook owns Oculus, the pioneers of VR. Zuckerberg spent $2 billion on the company two years ago and he clearly has made very smart acquisitions in the past. Just like Google, Zuckerberg knows that VR is the next big thing and he invested heavily into it. Oculus is building another ecosystem, and by working together with Samsung on the Gear VR, they have already successfully brought it to a wide range of consumers. With the sheer market power of Facebook, Oculus is here to stay and will for sure be one of the big players in VR ecosystems.
Sony is building upon its strong Playstation brand to win over gamers and it is up to a very strong start with its great Playstation VR launch. With over 400 million Playstation 4 across households worldwide, Sony is introducing high quality VR to the mass market and will build another VR ecosystem with focus on gaming and entertainment that is in it for the long haul. Just like the Steam platform with its HTC Vive headset, they can build on a huge fanbase that is gladly adopting VR.
Even Microsoft does not want to miss just another paradigm shift like they did with the Internet. With HoloLens, they have a strong contender in the AR market and their CEO Satya Nadella has just announced full fledged VR headsets for only $299 that are compatible with Windows 10. At $299, these headsets are even $100 cheaper than Sony’s PSVR…
So they are all in. All but Apple! What’s going on here? We have not even heard ANY announcement about VR yet from the company that revolutionized the smartphone market and gave us tablet computers! It seems like Apple is completely missing out on Virtual Reality! Doesn’t the company believe in VR, like all the other big players do? Has Apple lost its intuition concerning what the market craves for? If you look at what Tim Cook recently said about VR, it quite looks like that!
We know that under Tim Cook Apple has lost most of its “One more thing” magic. The company is not the innovator it once was. It’s not leading the market as it once did, but mostly playing it safe, milking its cash cows of former glorious days, cashing in on one uninspired iteration of iPhones and iPads over the next. This is still working very well for the company right now, but it simply does not seem to be a sustainable model for the future, especially if the company is completely missing out on VR.
Even the biggest Apple fans will soon be wary that they won’t find those exciting VR experiences that everyone is talking about in the Apple ecosystem. And the next time they need a new phone or a new computer, the alternatives that Google or Microsoft offer might just start to appeal to them so much more than ever before, especially with the Pixel phones and Surface computers hitting sweet spots that before only Apple was able to hit.
So what is Apple waiting for? Do they believe VR is still too immature to go in big? Do they first want to wait it out and see if the mainstream market really digs VR? For some new technologies, it was fine when Apple did it like this. NFC for example. Apple didn’t follow Android’s lead and put NFC chips into their phones for a long time. They didn’t need to, because too little people used it anyways. And when they did, they used their market power to really establish the technology. The market needed Apple to make the move.
For VR that is totally not the case though. VR is taking off with or without Apple. And it is uncertain if the loyal Apple supporters will wait until Apple introduces their own VR game or if they will switch ecosystems in order to experience VR. The technology is just too exciting and the momentum is just growing stronger. This time it’s not just a technology that is some add-on like NFC, it is a completely new market. A market that does come with advantages for first movers. As we all know, once you are invested in an ecosystem, it’s not so easy to get out of it. If Apple waits too long, they might have to fight an uphill battle that will be tough to win.
Is VR for Apple what the Internet was for Microsoft or social networking for Google? Are they completely missing out on it or are they going to surprise us all with VR for the iPhone 8? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments!