Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), often referred to as "dub-dub", has become increasingly important over recent years, since it offers previews of key new software and hardware. In last year's conference for example, it had unveiled Apple Pay Later, a service that allows users to split the cost of online purchases to interest-free installments, heralding the firm's entry into the BuyNowPayLater (BNPL) market. 
During the 2023 WWDC on Monday and among other things, the tech giant showcased a new MacBook, a new M2 chip and the iOS 17, with each new iPhone OS typically rolling out in the autumn months. What stood out however, was the unveiling of the long-rumored augmented reality headset, the Vision Pro.
Mixed Reality Headset
In what was the first major product announcement since 2014 and the Apple Watch, the firm introduced the Vision Pro, a mixed/augmented reality headset, marked as "spatial computer" that blends the virtual and the physical world. 
Apple has designed a dedicated operating system, the VisionOS that lets wearers interact with digital content, using their hands, eyes and voice, without the need of any physical controllers. With EyeSight, the device allows users to stay connected with those around them and see their surroundings, in adjustable levels.
During the presentation, CEO Tim Cook spoke of the "beginning of a new era for computing", in a sign that the company positions these AR goggles as a computing device, not merely a virtual reality novelty. The Vision Pro will start at a hefty $3,499 and is expected to become available in early-2024.
Stepping into Meta's Turf
With Monday's unveiling, Apple steps into a market that has been mainly driven by Facebook-parent Meta Platforms and its vision for the Metaverse. Anticipating the move, the social media behemoth made a preemptive move last week.
In an effort to undercut Apple's event, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the next-gen virtual and mixed reality headset, months before its launch. The Meta Quest 3 is scheduled to ship this fall, starting at $499.99 - nowhere near the extravagant price tag of the Vision Pro. 
Meta's augmented reality goggles also promise seamless blending of the physical world with the virtual one. It's hard to compare the two devices at this stage, but Apple's headset appears to be at a completely different level in terms of passthrough, compared to any other product. Nilay Patel from The Verge who had the chance to test the device, describes "incredibly impressive displays and video passthrough", adding that "I was happily using my phone to take notes while wearing the Vision Pro". 
Meta has been "burnt" before by Apple, as the iOS privacy changes blocked tracking and had a negative impact on its revenues. However, Apple's rival AR headset may be good news for Meta, since it could lift the broader VR market out of obscurity and drive it forward.
One of Apple's main WWDC takeaways last year, was the aforementioned Pay Later service, but the announcement came just as the Fed and other major central bank initiated aggressive rate hiking cycles. Higher interest rates had an adverse impact on the BuyNowPayLater industry and as such, the timing was not good.
The tech giant maybe making the timing same mistake now, perhaps in need of an original product that will place it back at the pinnacle of innovation. It had not announced new hardware since its smartwatch and iPhones seem to be incrementaly updating, as rivals push on foldables.
The virtual reality market is still niche and has failed to attract broader audiences, as the Metaverse remains obscure and Meta Platforms itself seems to be diverting its efforts towards generative AI. Furthermore, AR headsets have a physical barrier, unlike any successful device Apple has created so far.
On the other hand, if there is a company that can create a polished product and establish a market with large consumer appeal, this is Apple. Its offering already appears more compelling, as it looks to create something beyond an entertainment device.
Apple's stock rose to new record highs on Monday in anticipation of the event, but faced pressure after the Vision Pro was unveiled and opened lower on Tuesday. Meta's stock meanwhile trades higher. The Vision Pro goggles apparently fell a bit flat among investors, who are probably skeptical of the high price point in a market that has failed to take off.
Senior Financial Editorial Writer
Nikos Tzabouras is a graduate of the Department of International & European Economic Studies at the Athens University of Economics and Business. He has a long time presence at FXCM, as he joined the company in 2011. He has served from multiple positions, but specializes in financial market analysis and commentary.
With his educational background in international relations, he emphasizes not only on Technical Analysis but also in Fundamental Analysis and Geopolitics – which have been having increasing impact on financial markets. He has longtime experience in market analysis and as a host of educational trading courses via online and in-person sessions and conferences.
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