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MarketWatch First Take: Apple, more than Meta, holds the key to unlocking a ‘metaverse’-type world of AR

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It has been more than a year since Facebook parent Meta
META,
-6.27%

started touting the metaverse, but many of us are still scratching our heads about it.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg did little to ease the confusion during last week’s third-quarter earnings call. When quizzed by an analyst on the metaverse revenue opportunity, the Meta chief gave a rambling answer.

But the numbers are clear – Meta is pumping vast amounts of money into making the metaverse a reality. The company’s Reality Labs segment, which includes the metaverse, reported a third-quarter loss that widened to $3.672 billion from $2.631 billion in the same period last year.

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But it will take much more than the $1,500 Quest Pro headset to move the metaverse needle. If Meta, or any other company for that matter, wants to really harness virtual and augmented reality, then consumers will need a smaller, less intrusive device. Meta has talked about one day shipping AR glasses but that is still in the future.

For me, the big leap forward around augmented reality will come when we can easily replicate the work we do on a laptop on our smartphones. In this way, smart glasses could use a smartphone to provide a view of a desktop and all the applications that it contains. That is why I think that a company like Apple Inc.
AAPL,
-1.59%
,
with its history of combining device form and function, will play the key role in opening up this brave new world.

In a recent interview with the Dutch media outlet Bright, Apple Inc.
AAPL,
-1.59%

CEO Tim Cook described augmented reality as a “profound technology” that will affect everything. Apple is expected to announce its own AR/VR headset over the coming months, with the device likely available next year. But it will be smaller, specially-designed glasses that really bring about an AR revolution.

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This technology would have to be small enough to fit in a person’s pocket and also aesthetically pleasing enough for them to wear. In this way, I would hope Apple could design something better than Alphabet Inc.’s
GOOGL,
-1.93%

short-lived and, let’s be honest, quite ugly, Google Glass. However, it could be years before we see Apple AR glasses.

Citing analyst Ming Chi-Kuo, MacRumors reported last year that augmented reality Apple glasses could appear by 2025.

Cook, in his interview with Bright, also downplayed the metaverse. “I always think it’s important that people understand what something is,” he said. “And I’m really not sure the average person can tell you what the metaverse is.”

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Nonetheless, tech heavyweights are starting to position themselves around the metaverse and augmented reality.

At its Meta Connect event earlier this month Meta announced an intriguing partnership with Microsoft Corp.
MSFT,
-1.39%

that could potentially open up the metaverse for workers. Microsoft will bring new work and productivity tools to the Quest Pro and Quest 2 next year, including apps Windows 365 and Teams. Users will also have the ability to join a Teams meeting from inside Meta Horizons workrooms.

Clearly, metaverse and augmented reality opportunities will eventually materialize. But while Meta may be making all the noise at the moment, it’s Apple that holds the key to the augmented reality future.

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