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Apple’s Reality Pro headset is the VR industry’s ‘last hope’

Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset hasn’t even launched, yet it’s already being touted as the “last hope” for the virtual reality (VR) headset industry. It shows what a dire situation the market is in, at least according to some estimates.

The grim appraisal comes from respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a post on Medium, Kuo explained that other headset makers have cut their production plans and are shipping far fewer units than previously expected. The malaise affects augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) headsets as well as their VR counterparts, says Kuo.

Some critical updates on the sales/shipments of AR/VR headset devices / 有些關於AR/VR頭戴裝置的銷售/出貨關鍵更新

— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) April 5, 2023

“Apple’s announcement event is likely the last hope for convincing investors that the AR/MR headset device could have a chance to be the next star product in consumer electronics,” Kuo believes. Apple is expected to launch its headset, dubbed Reality Pro, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 5.

The situation is so gloomy because demand for these headsets is apparently much lower than anticipated. Kuo estimates that “Sony has cut its 2023 production plan for the PSVR 2 by about 20%,” while “the product lifecycle shipment for Meta’s Quest Pro is only around 300,000 units.” Meanwhile, Pico (China’s largest mixed-reality headset maker) saw shipments fall 40% below expectations in 2022, Kuo noted.

That all paints a picture of an industry in trouble, and there is currently “insufficient evidence” to suggest that mixed reality headsets can capture the public’s imagination — and their hard-earned cash — in the foreseeable future, Kuo’s report concluded.

Bleak prospects

A rendering of an Apple mixed-reality headset (Reality Pro) in a gray color seen from the front.
Apple headset render. Ahmed Chenni,

Despite not even hitting the shelves yet, Apple’s headset hasn’t escaped this negative atmosphere. Some company employees are apparently worried about its future, while one prominent Apple reporter has said the device risks becoming a “high-profile flop” due to its expensive price (estimated to be around $3,000) and a customer base skeptical of mixed reality headsets’ utility and attractiveness.

These are hardly ideal conditions for Apple to launch the Reality Pro into. Although rivals’ weaknesses might be an opportunity for Apple to gobble up market share, it is still expected to sell relatively few units of its headset.

In fact, Kuo has previously stated that Apple is so concerned that the Reality Pro will fail to create its own “iPhone moment” that the company has chosen to delay its launch from WWDC to a future date. In the end, that might prove to be a wise decision.

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