Tim Cook’s Apple is coming for Zuckerberg’s metaverse

Tim Cook’s Apple is coming for Zuckerberg’s metaverse

Apple’s ( AAPL ) next big product, an AR/VR headset is expected to be unveiled at its WWDC event in June. And that puts the company and CEO Tim Cook on a direct collision course with market leader Meta.

In an interview with GQ, Cook lays out his vision for an AR/VR device and how it could help consumers. And, likely to the chagrin of Meta ( META ) chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Cook says the device could “greatly improve people’s communication, people’s connection.”

While he doesn’t mention the Meta, or confirm that a headset is on the way, Cook’s statement is, however, a shot across the company’s bow. Zuckerberg and company have been working on their AR/VR headset for years, ever since the company bought headset maker Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion.

Part of this effort has been the development of the metaverse, a series of interconnected worlds on the Internet where users can think: communicate and connect.

Meta currently offers Meta Horizon Worlds, a sort of early version of the metaverse where users can meet as virtual avatars and play games, watch concerts, or just hang out and chat. Meta is also partnering with Microsoft ( MSFT ) to bring that company’s Teams and Microsoft 365 productivity apps to its Quest headset.

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends the Red Carpet Season 3 Premiere of Apple Original Series ‘Ted Lasso’ at Westwood Village Theatre, Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 7, 2023. REUTERS/David Swanson

While Meta’s efforts are primarily VR-based at this point, Zuckerberg’s ultimate goal is to create a lightweight headset that can overlay the virtual world into the physical world via augmented reality. And that’s exactly what Cook is eyeing.

“It’s the idea that there’s this environment that can be even better than just the real world — layering the virtual world on top of it can be an even better world,” Cook said.

This is exactly the good world that Meta and Zuckerberg hope to conquer as well. The company already has a good lead over Apple, with 22 million Quest headphones in the wild. But Apple has already proven time and time again that it can enter an established space as a newcomer and effectively take over to become the dominant force.

The story continues

Look no further than the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods for proof that Apple can take on a post and leave it in the dust.

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Apple and Meta have a rocky relationship. The iPhone maker’s privacy stance has limited Meta’s ability to track users as they browse the web via Safari or across apps via App Tracking Transparency (ATT). ATT allows users to choose whether they want apps to track them across other apps and on the web. Declining this option means Meta doesn’t get as good a look at consumers’ browsing habits, hurting its ability to sell targeted ads.

Meta estimates that this feature cost the company up to $10 billion in 2022 alone.

Meta now appears to be moving past that hurdle, but is now facing a slowdown in the digital advertising market.

Cook has also repeatedly called out app developers for deleting user data, hitting the topic during press events and college commencement speeches.

Meta, for its part, hit back at Apple, helping Epic Games in its antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant. In that suit, Epic challenged Apple’s ability to force app makers to use its own Apple Store payment methods.

At the moment, Meta is still the AR/VR market leader. But with Apple headphones on the way. All this may change soon.

By Daniel Howley, technology editor at Yahoo Finance. Follow him @DanielHowley

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