While many of its biggest competitors compete for a share of the growing virtual reality market, Apple has sat back and watched on. The Cupertino company is thought to be working on its own VR technologies, but until they are ready, it will roll third-party VR devices into its “Made for iPhone” program, according to one analyst.
Although it doesn’t look like Apple is doing much in the VR space right now, there’s evidence of its efforts behind the scenes. The company has acquired a number of other companies that specialize in VR and augmented reality, such as PrimeSense, Magic Leap, Movidius, and more.
Apple has also hired many VR experts. According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, at least 141 Apple employees listed on LinkedIn have a background in VR. One of its most notable hires was the former lead HoloLens audio engineer at Microsoft, who joined Apple last August.
Apple long-term intentions seem pretty clear from these hires and acquisitions, then, but the company isn’t pushing into VR as strongly as its rivals. In comparison, Munster found 425 employees at Microsoft with a VR background, and 267 at Google.
Munster believes Apple may develop its own VR devices one day, but he doesn’t see the company releasing anything in the near term. Instead, it is expected to make VR devices a part of its “Made for iPhone” program.
This would provide accessory manufacturers and developers with an official framework for creating VR headsets and software especially for iPhone and iPad. It would also compete with Gear VR, a similar platform offered by Samsung for its own Galaxy smartphones.
You can already purchase VR headsets that work with iPhone, including Google’s own Cardboard viewer, and there are a small but growing selection of VR apps. But with Apple’s backing, there could be a lot more.
VR could become so big that it will actually replace our smartphones in the future, Munster says.
“These initial steps are expected to be the first in a path toward phasing out iPhone in favor of a mixed reality headset or similar device,” reports AppleInsider. “That reality, however, is not expected for at least 15 years, Munster says.”
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