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Apple may launch mixed reality device this year — but we’re not scared, HTC CEO says

HTC’s CEO believes Apple will release its own mixed reality headset, but she is unconcerned about competition.

Speaking with CNBC at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, HTC CEO and co-founder Cher Wang claimed the Cupertino tech giant was expected to debut a mixed reality, or XR, device “very soon” – maybe as soon as this year. XR refers to technologies that combine the physical and digital worlds.

“I think the earliest [release date] may be middle or later this year,” Wang said.

She noted that the business would most likely prefer such a gadget over augmented reality glasses.

Apple did not immediately reply to a request for comment from CNBC.

It has apparently put ambitions to deploy AR glasses by 2025 on indefinite hold. It has long been speculated that the corporation is developing its own virtual and augmented reality experiences. Bloomberg reported in January that it was planning to unveil a mixed reality headset in the spring.

Apple often lags behind other companies in adopting a new product trend or feature. For example, the iPhone didn’t have a dual-lens camera until 2017, years after HTC released a dual-lens camera with its HTC One M8 device in 2014.

“Apple is always more cautious. I think the market is now big enough [that] they probably will enter,” Wang said.

Yet, when Apple does enter a new product area, it “redefines the way everyone thinks about an opportunity,” according to Leo Gebbie, lead analyst for connected devices at CCS Insight.

Neil Shah, research vice president of Counterpoint Research, told CNBC: “XR is the newest form of how we can interact differently with the world and can change the paradigm of personal computing.”

“Apple and the entire industry realizes the potential and hence want to enter and eventually lead this segment,” he added.

XR competition is fierce

Apple would not be the only firm to enter the XR market. Meta released its $1,500 Quest Pro gadget in October, allowing users to interact with virtual items that appear in a full-color perspective of the environment around them.

A Samsung official said earlier this week that the South Korean electronics giant is “working out” its mixed reality strategy. Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed reality headgear is available. Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, unveiled a prototype pair of augmented reality glasses on Monday.

This means that HTC will face more competition. According to Counterpoint Research statistics, the business supplied over 100,000 XR gadgets in the second quarter of 2022, up from 40,000 shipments at the same time the previous year. Yet, its market share remains limited.

Wang believes that actions by Apple, Meta, Samsung, and others in the field will increase general acceptance of mixed reality devices, which will benefit HTC’s business.

“It’s really proven that our direction is correct,” she said. “Competition is always good.”

HTC used to be a big name in the smartphone industry. Now, the company is betting on the merging of the real and virtual worlds.In January, the firm released the Vive XR Elite, a lightweight headset aimed at gaming, fitness, and productivity, for $1,099 USD.

HTC sold a portion of its smartphone business to Google for $1.1 billion in 2018.

Betting on the ‘metaverse’

On the long run, these gadgets are likely to be how people interact with the “metaverse,” a large-scale virtual environment. HTC has its own metaverse, dubbed HTC Viverse, and the firm spoke about its plans for it at the exhibition this week.

“The metaverse is kind of growing in a state where so many social media companies and walled garden companies are trying to build it out themselves,” Shen Ye, HTC’s global head of product, told CNBC. “Our goal is to make sure it’s as open and interconnected as possible.”

The early excitement over Meta’s engagement has worn off, and the buzz about the metaverse has faded recently. According to IDC statistics, worldwide shipments of VR headgear and augmented reality devices fell more than 12% last year.

Businesses have instead shifted their focus to artificial intelligence, the next hot tech subject that ChatGPT, a prominent AI chatbot, has rocketed to the top of industry insiders’ favourite trends. SKTelecom, a South Korean telecommunications business, unveiled a large sign at MWC that stated “AI METAVERSE.”

Users may immerse themselves in virtual realms or interact with 3D items in the actual area around them by wearing one of HTC’s XR gadgets.

People were asked to test out their boxing talents in one single experience. A grid of nine black circles emerges, and you are graded according to how fast you can punch them as they light up red one after the other in random sequence.

HTC wants its technology to be useful in commercial and industrial settings as well as in the consumer market. The business is partnering with the United States Air Force and police agencies to carry out virtual training sessions, Wang added.

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