Deafening chatter about the theoretical hellscape that is the metaverse has seemingly encouraged every exec to give their take, but notably missing from the scrum is a certain Cupertino-based company. On Thursday, we finally heard from Apple CEO Tim Cook who gave a restrained endorsement.
When asked about the metaverse during Apple’s latest earnings call, Cook gave familiar responses, stating “we’re a company in the business of innovation” and “we have over 14,000 AR apps in the App Store.” He went on to say that Apple sees “a lot of potential” in the space and is “investing accordingly” (via Apple Insider).
None of this should come as a surprise considering Apple has long been bullish on augmented reality, with Cook once calling himself “AR fan number one.” What’s perhaps most notable about the response is that Cook never used the term “Metaverse.”
Metaverse, first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi classic Snow Crash, is used to describe a future where the physical and digital worlds meld together through the use of AR, VR, and mixed reality—where digital objects appear in the real world and the virtual world looks more like the physical one. Recently, metaverse has become a favorite topic among the tech elite after Facebook rebranded to Meta.
As invested as Apple is in the technology—both the hardware and software—that would enable what some consider “the future of the internet,” the company has yet to drop the buzzing term. But then, Apple isn’t a company to hastily jump on fads and prefers to wait for things to mature. It also likes to do its own branding (AppleVerse, anyone?) and isn’t on the best terms with Zuckerberg and Co.
The metaverse is a fun concept to consider in literature or film, but the reality of this fanciful new reality is that we’re many years away from the goal of a metaverse where everything happens in real-time and is persistent across platforms. In fact, an Intel lead said last year that the metaverse will need a 1,000-fold increase in computational efficiency than what is available today, and that “the entire plumbing of the internet will need major upgrades.”
Apple is said to be working on a VR headset that could be released later this year, but don’t expect any “metaverse” talk when it arrives. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, a reliable Apple analyst, says the company’s upcoming AR headset will be for shorter activity sessions, not to bring us closer to the Oasis in Ready Player One.
“Here’s one word I’d be shocked to hear on stage when Apple announces its headset: metaverse,” Gurman wrote in his Power On newsletter. “I’ve been told pretty directly that the idea of a completely virtual world where users can escape to — like they can in Meta Platforms/Facebook’s vision of the future — is off limits from Apple.”
That said, the headset would mark the first major step toward building a more seamless bridge between worlds, which could take the shape of glasses or contact lenses.