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Why Google and Apple will rule mixed reality

Mike Elgan | Feb. 20, 2017
Sorry, Microsoft and Magic Leap, the Silicon Valley smartphone giants have one thing you haven't got

Google is building a world of smartphone-friendly mixed reality that's mainstream, portable, affordable and practical.

Apple may be doing the rough equivalent.


During a visit to the U.K. last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook told The Independent that he is "excited about augmented reality" (AR). (Cook uses the term "augmented reality," but "mixed reality" is more accurate.)

That's interesting, because Cook rarely uses the e-word -- excited -- unless he's talking about Apple products.

(Apple rarely discusses future product plans, and the company declined to comment for this column.)

Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski and KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo both believe Apple's 10-year anniversary iPhone 8, will support mixed reality.

Combine all this tea-leaf reading, guesswork and rumor-mongering with Apple's numerous mixed-reality patents and acquisitions, and it all adds up to a strong possibility that Apple could embrace mixed reality in commercially available products. Chief among Apple's acquisitions is Primesense, the company behind the hardware Microsoft based its Kinect system on.

If Apple does offer something in the mixed-reality space, it will probably be for the mainstream consumer market. Cook told The Independent that mixed reality is a "big idea, like the smartphone" — something "for everyone."

I've predicted in this space that Apple will get into the smart glasses business. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple's first foray into mixed reality was a simple HUD display built into fashion glasses, a 3D-image sensing feature for the iPhone 8, or both.

Either way, when you think about mixed reality, understand that while Microsoft, Magic Leap and others are creating powerful, exciting mixed-reality products, they lack the one quality that Google and probably Apple have -- the intention to develop mixed reality that's affordable, mobile and mainstream.

The mixed reality you'll actually use isn't the heavy, expensive, nonmobile version from Microsoft and Magic Leap. It's the one that comes free with your phone.


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