Wednesday, February 1, 2023

For Apple, 2023 will be the year of augmented reality. But at what price?

Put your money where your mouth is

Apple’s augmented reality goggles will cost around $3,000. A lot, too much, but the hardware specifications reveal that the thing will be a technological marvel. According to recent rumours, the visor that will take us into the Apple metaverse will offer performance equivalent to a MacBook, with plenty of cameras placed all over the device, gaze tracking and pass-through mode to ‘return’ to reality without taking off the goggles. One of the reasons why the American giant would raise the (economic) stakes so high for the trinket is that, at least in the beginning, the batches available of Apple Glass (or whatever they will be called) will be very limited. This is not only a matter of prudence but also of the current shortage on the market of the hardware necessary to meet the hi-tech needs of companies. And where suppliers do have enough stock, the cost of semiconductors and other components has skyrocketed to such an extent that the major brands have to wait for real consumer demand before they produce a plethora of items that will perhaps remain on shop shelves or online warehouses. As far as Apple is concerned, the company that will assemble Glass, Pegatron, has apparently estimated first-year shipments of between 0.7-0.8 million units. A number that doesn’t even come close to Apple’s other devices, which provide billions in revenue for the tech giant. But if Cupertino’s entry into the metaverse is aimed at a niche audience, it will have a limited reach and, consequently, fewer shipments. And a high price is, therefore, necessary to make the launch profitable.

Virtual world, real bet

The problem, if anything, is a different one, and Meta is demonstrating it: how much is it worth throwing ourselves headlong into a project, in our case, the metaverse, which is likely to require enormous resources, both economic and human, in the face of a very uncertain future? The leviathan led by Mark Zuckerberg already suffers from somewhat shaky management of accounts, with projects thrown to the wind (like the Watch) and entire teams left at home at short notice. Not even the pandemic and being attached 24 hours a day to smartphones and computers has allowed Zuck to reposition his team with a different priority of objectives. What is certain is that Apple has an important series of products in its portfolio that, even in the event of a metaverse flop, would allow the company to move forward with a little setback but, at that point, it would be the entire future Internet ‘movement’ that would suffer. Of course, so far, so good: with the launch of the iPad, a previously unknown hi-tech sector has been created. It had already happened with iPods and was repeated with the Apple Watch. For glasses, we shall see.

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