Meta hopes Vision Pro can revitalize XR device market

Chia-Han Lee, Taipei; Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: AFP

Apple is set to officially launch its brand-new Mixed Reality (MR) headset Vision Pro on February 2. The general market perception is that, despite its high sale price of US$3,499, appealing to target a smaller niche market, it will still threaten competing products such as Meta Platform's Quest and Sony PSVR 2.

However, for Meta, the hope is that the addition of Vision Pro can revitalize the overall extended reality (XR) market. This is due to the overall market's decline over the past year, and consumer adoption rates remain low.

Cathy Craig, CEO of virtual reality (VR) game developer Incisiv, stated that some Meta employees have revealed that Apple's entry into the market is beneficial. They believe this will drive more consumers to experience MR devices. Due to Meta's products being priced much lower than Vision Pro, it is anticipated that even after experiencing Apple's devices, people may still elect to purchase Meta products.

Meta's metaverse struggles

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Meta announced in 2021 that it is fully committed to the metaverse vision. It even went as far as changing its company name, believing that an immersive virtual world would be the future trend in digitization.

However, three years have passed, and the revenue contribution of its dedicated unit, Reality Labs, remains less than 1%. The sales of the Quest series products also appear to encounter a bottleneck and are still unable to penetrate the general public market. Asset management consulting firm FBB Capital Partners predicted that Reality Labs, which has accumulated losses of about US$50 billion over the years, will incur an additional loss of at least US$115 billion by 2030.

Despite all of that, Meta executives remain optimistic about the market outlook. They also believe Apple's entry into the market will attract consumer attention and prove that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg's vision is correct and insightful, making Meta a pioneer followed by the industry.

Sources within Meta revealed that the company is positioning the Quest and its emerging software ecosystem as an alternative option to Apple in the metaverse sector, similar to how Google's Android system coexisted with Apple's iOS in the smartphone market.

Most analyses believe that future competition between companies like Meta and Apple will not be on hardware devices, with the focus being placed on software ecosystems such as applications and content, which will be the key to determining the number of users.

Apple's threat to Meta persists. Even though the pricing may deter many consumers, it is more friendly for app developers. After all, Vision Pro has a foundation similar to the iPhone and iPad. This allows all software developers with the capability to develop apps for Apple products to more easily create new apps for Vision Pro. Apple has even claimed that most existing iPad apps only require slight adjustments to be applicable on Vision Pro.

On the other hand, Apple's approach to apps on Vision Pro also differs from Meta. Meta's Quest Store primarily features video games, fitness, and virtual community applications. Meanwhile, Apple's Vision Pro mainly focuses on tasks or applications consumers are already used to, such as web browsing, sporting events or videos, and FaceTime video calls with friends and family.

Vision Pro's Influence on Meta

Analysts have also observed that Apple has somewhat influenced Meta's product design since it first announced Vision Pro in June 2023. In the past, Meta's emphasis was placed on fully immersive virtual world experiences. However, products such as the Quest 3 and Quest Pro all highlight their MR functionality, overlaying virtual images on actual objects.

In terms of feature designs, Meta has also moved closer to Apple. For example, in the past, Meta relied heavily on controllers as its control scheme. Meta has introduced eye-tracking and hand-gesture-tracking functions as control schemes in its latest products.

Sondre Kvam, CEO of the headset productivity application developer Naer, pointed out that as technology advances, humans are becoming more accustomed to completing tasks in the most effortless way possible. We don't like to remember intricate keyboard and button functions. Therefore, features like Vision Pro's eye-tracking and hand-gesture tracking are more intuitive and convenient solutions.