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VR is in a Weird Place Right Now


I wrote this a bit ago as part of a conversation with a friend about VR in general. Reading it again, I thought others might be interested.

To be clear, this is my opinion. In particular, there are other players in the high-end PCVR space than Pimax. I just know more about them because I use their product. The story with their competitors (like Varjo, for instance) is similar.

Apple nailed the hardware side of things. The software is a small subset of what it needs to be - but, to be fair, that's the Apple way. The things it does it does very well.

Pimax got the tech side of the hardware right, but the design aspect isn't great. It's unwieldy. The software side is a garbage fire. It works great for what I use it for, but that's powered either by F/OSS utilities, or by Steam (via SteamVR).

Meta missed the mark in both areas IMO. Both their hardware and software are "good enough". The hardware is cheap enough to be accessible, through compromises and subsidization. The OS is adequate but not great. The software ecosystem is thriving, because of the market penetration.

Meta has the most compelling business case at the moment - I think they're actually making money on the Quest line. They took the optimal path to profitability/break-even, and have a base to build on. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be interested in advancing the state of VR as a whole, and aren't really releasing powerful (and therefore, expensive) headset models.

Pimax isn't doing well, but are profitable. They have a small market segment, but it's probably the best all-around headset for driving and flight simulation use. They're pushing the limits of what they can do hardware-wise, but are limited by their capital resources. They aren't Apple, and can't put a billion dollars into R&D. Still, they shoved dual 4K into a reasonably-priced headset and made it work. They call that "8K", and are about to release their "12K" headset. It will likely be higher resolution than the AVP. BUT - they aren't focused. They need to slow down the hardware side of things and actually build a usable OS for the things. That, or drop the "AIO" capability entirely and focus on their strength, PCVR.

Apple is taking a moonshot. They put tons of money into the AVP and surely don't expect to recoup that investment with the current generation of headsets. It's too expensive, too limited in its utility, and they can't scale production above about 500k units per year regardless of cost. For comparison, Meta has manufactured and sold over 20 million Quest series headsets. Apple's plan here seems to be to produce the absolute best hardware possible with the current tech, get it into the hands of enthusiasts and developers, generate some revenue from the wealthy class, and use that to refine visionOS and foster a software ecosystem that will eventually support a mass-market device class comparable in sales and price to the iPad Pro line.