Apple VR Headsets Deemed "the biggest loser" in 2016
Apple has been attacked throughout the year for failing to jump on the Virtual Reality headset bandwagon following Facebook, Samsung, Google, HTC, Microsoft, Sony and others. Yet after a year of hype, VR headsets remain a niche that's failing to live up to even conservative expectations.
Wheels come off the VR hype wagon
Apple's "failure" to deliver a VR headset product this year has been the subject of many handwringing articles from analysts and journalists expressing concern for the company given the exciting future promised by VR.
However, a variety of research firms are now reporting much slower VR sales than expected--due to both limited content and high hardware costs.
Further, the fragmented market split between higher end PC and console-based headsets (including Oculus Rift and Sony's PlayStation VR, below) and various lower end smartphone-based headsets (including offering by HTC, Samsung and Google) has resulted in a dearth of compelling content for any particular ecosystem.
VR Fail Sales
A report indicated that while premium gaming consoles such as Sony's PlayStation 4 were selling well due to aggressive promotions (recently having reached sales of 50 million units, across three years), Sony's $399 PSVR offering fell far short of its estimated forecast of 2.6 million units.
SuperData said that only 750 thousand PSVR units have shipped, explaining that "notably fewer units sold than expected due to a relatively fragmented title line-up and modest marketing effort." The research firm stated that VR is "the biggest loser" of the season.
VR vs Apple Watch
Samsung's Gear VR is low end, $100 headset peripheral that requires a premium Samsung phone (such as a Galaxy S6, S7 or Note 5). As a vehicle for drawing interest to Samsung's high end, it has clearly failed.
Contrast that with Apple's own peripheral for its late modeled iPhones: Apple Watch, which has sold by millions each quarter, profitably, at prices from $300 to more than $1,000, while creating demand for fashionable bands, drawing attention to Apple Pay and attracting sports enthusiasts to Apple's ecosystem.
Apple sees AR as a bigger opportunity
In August, Apple's chief executive Tim Cook told the Washington Post that he thought augmented reality was "extremely interesting and sort of a core technology."
As with the smartwatch, Apple has repeatedly arrived to market with offerings that were years behind the unfinished, inferior products of its competitors, using new technologies and a fresh approach to addressing users' needs and desires.
Apple's iPod was a substantially better music player; iPhone was a vast advancement over the status quo of smartphones, and iPad crushed existing tablets and has never been bested since by any other tablet maker. That bodes well for Apple's next leap into the AR/VR market, particularly given the poor sales and apathetic response current VR headsets are experiencing.
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