The most important thing about Apple Vision Pro is the impact it has on the rest of the VR market

There’s no better catalyst for competition than an Apple product launch.

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Believe it or not, there were smartphones around before it become an iPhone or Android race. Think about the LG Arena, the Samsung Wave or just about everything from BlackBerry – the iPhone still managed to shape the modern smartphone era through those early years after 2007. There were also thin laptops before the MacBook Air launched in 2008, but it triggered the evolution the Ultrabook and things have been thin and light ever since.

Such is the impact that Apple has on the tech industry – and in Apple Vision Pro, we’re about to see it happen again.

Apple Vision Pro isn’t the first VR headset, although reading some of the first impressions of Apple’s new device, you’d think it was. Many have come before it – HTC Vive, Meta Quest, even Google Cardboard. All aimed to step into new realities, to open up a new way to interact with content, but all felt as though something was missing.

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That Apple’s VR device is monstrously expensive doesn’t really matter. It’s going to be a status symbol, it’s going to adorn the face of influencers across social media, it’s going to be strapped to the face of the jetsetting classes; people will want to be seen in it, with it, wearing it. Like an expensive Rolex watch – or even Apple’s AirPod Max headphones – people will buy it, so you know they have it.

I’m sure a cheaper version will follow, and I’m almost certain it will be called Apple Vision One. Don’t ask me why, it just feels right.

But what Apple Vision Pro really provides to the industry is in its name: vision. This is what Apple is good at. It watched the industry for the last decade, it learned all the lessons from all those disparate VR experiences that came before, and then it pounced. It redefined the experience, leaving the rest of the industry to play catch-up, while showing them what they need to do to compete.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, loves to say that only Apple can do these things because of that symbiotic relationship between hardware, software and the services that Apple offers. That’s certainly what got Vision Pro across the line with its wow moment at WWDC. But Apple isn’t the only company that can do this – in fact Apple needs the competition to drive this segment forward.

Google is perhaps the obvious competitor, taking Apple’s visionary VR experiences and applying it to exciting Google services. Some are already there – imagine stepping into Google Maps Immersive View in VR – while things like Google’s old Photo Spheres and panoramas are just screaming out for VR love, something we saw previously through Google Cardboard.

What Apple is showing, however, is a cohesive vision rather than fragmented experiences. I’ve used a number of VR devices in the past and jolting from one method of interaction to another just breaks the experience. Look at how disconnected the Xreal Air experience is, the learning curve is huge as you battle with different implementation of different features.

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Qualcomm has long been a player in VR, providing the reference hardware for others to build on, and using Snapdragon Spaces to encourage the development of VR experiences. But I can’t help feeling that Qualcomm will now be looking at the power Apple is offering and moving its hardware up a step. It will be probably companies like Qualcomm with hardware and Google with software that power the next-gen devices to compete with Apple and try and duplicate some of what Apple Vision Pro has shown us.

The race is now on. Apple has presented its vision, and with its headset due to go on sale in early 2024, even at that huge price, many will be looking at their hardware platform, their software platform, and the experiences they offer and stepping up. It feels like there’s a lot of work to be done, but finally, finally, it feels like virtual reality is about to have its moment.