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Metaverse: Apple and Facebook, two completely opposite strategies

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Metaverse: Apple and Facebook, two diametrically opposed strategies (Albert Meig, Arthur D. Little)

On June 5, 2023, Apple unveils its mixed reality mask, the Apple Vision Pro. At first glance, the timing might seem confusing — the Metaverse craze has died down and the hot topic right now is generative AI. However, this advertisement actually reveals a bold and distinct strategy. Let’s explore the situation.

In our 2022 report, The Metaverse, Beyond Fiction, we presented the Metaverse as the future evolution of the internet, blurring the lines between the real and the virtual.

Key to this definition lies in the idea that our perception of reality is, and will be incrementally, enhanced by one or more layers of data, information, or representations. The real world turns into a screen on which one or more digital layers are superimposed.

This definition was chosen because we were – and still are – convinced that the practices that will dominate the next few years are exponential rather than hypothetical in nature. This is what emerged from our many expert interviews around the world and our careful analysis.

In our study, as well as in our article for HBR France, we identified three factors converging for the first time and driving the Metaverse: 1) an explosion in the number of spatial web users, 2) the emergence of major platforms uniting ecosystems of creators and consumers of spatial digital experiences, and 3) the maturation of the technology. Our analysis demonstrated that these technological and behavioral trends were irreversible and relatively independent of the Facebook/Meta ups and downs.

In September 2021, Meta attempted to fit the concept of the Metaverse, previously known mainly to science fiction fans. Meta’s vision was twofold: on the one hand, to transform its social network into a virtual world (Consumer Metaverse), and on the other hand, to invest in the professional field with Horizon Workrooms and Virtual Meeting Rooms (Enterprise Metaverse). Despite the high quality and affordability of the Meta Oculus headset, they have greatly reduced resistance to adoption. On the other hand, with the exception of early adopters, very few people were equipped with helmets and virtual universes remained severely deserted. On the other hand, potential corporate customers cannot easily integrate Workrooms into their Microsoft environment. Meta attempted to accelerate the adoption of radical innovation with its September 2021 announcements. It worked temporarily, but it also hastened the end of the Metaverse craze.

The Metaverse madness has vanished. Moreover, Apple never seemed to believe it – even Tim Cook said in 2022:

I’m not sure the average person can tell you what the Metaverse is.

In 2023, everyone is talking about LLM and Generative Artificial Intelligence. However, on June 5, Apple announced its Mixed Reality Mask, and to everyone’s surprise, LLMs didn’t mention… Why enter the arena after the battle? Why ignore the elephant (LLMephant) in the room? timing problem? unlikely. On the other hand, it is a radically different situation.

recovery. 22 years ago, Apple got into the music industry. iPod is in everyone’s memory. However, it was much more than that: Apple was implementing what they called a “digital hub strategy”: not an MP3 player, but an experience: listening to music on the go. There were three essentials: iPod – a thousand songs in your pocket, iTunes to manage your music library, and the iTunes Music Store to easily buy music. Apple wasn’t the first to introduce an MP3 player, but they were the first to offer an integrated, innovative, but persistent user experience.

With the Vision Pro, Apple is trying to replicate this feat: innovating from the ordinary. It is not a radically new world that we present to you, but on the contrary, it is a continuation of what you all know: computers and the Internet. Vision Pro is simply a space computer. You will find your usual environment there. Vous pourrez y regarder vos films (dans une salle virtuelle gigantesque), votre écran d’ordinateur (que vous soyez dans le train ou dans votre salon), vos applications… Ayez confiance, rien ne change… L’interface is simplement plus proche de your eyes…

Where Meta has tried to impose an entirely new concept, Apple, true to itself, presents a world-renowned vision: computers and the Internet. They will gradually transform these everyday tools into spatial and immersive experiences, which will – eventually – lead to radically new and different experiences.

One last thing: during the keynote on June 5, 2023, there wasn’t a word about LLMs, while analysts were awaiting major announcements about artificial intelligence and voice assistants. Apple doesn’t usually push technology – Apple focuses on the user experience. Thanks to the R1 processor integrated into Vision Pro, we can expect that artificial intelligence, although invisible, will be at the heart of the optimal user experience, analyzing in particular the movements of the head, eyes, hands or voice commands.

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