You may have heard by now that Apple is working on a mixed reality headset. Anyone who hasn’t yet will catch up on Monday. In the meantime, we’ve got three days to ponder how this thing will go down before it’s the new reality.

Convincing anyone to buy a virtual reality headset is already a challenge – even if there’s a simple way to switch to augmented reality mode.

Facebook bought Oculus almost 10 years ago, changed the company name to Meta a year ago, and sells a range of virtual reality headsets. Still, with Meta headsets as cheap as $349, VR hasn’t really set the world on fire.

Could a $3,000 headset from Apple really be the answer to shifting mixed reality tides?

The reality is that Apple’s XR headset won’t be the most expensive hardware on the mixed reality market. Kif Leswing at CNBC covered the topic of headset sticker shock for next-gen technology back in August:

The best-selling virtual reality headset, the Meta Quest 2, retails for $400 and accounted for 78% of the nascent VR market in 2021, according to IDC. Consumers who want the next-generation technology are going to have to spend multiples of that. […]

To expand the market, Meta and Apple will have to convince consumers that more advanced systems will be worth the investment.

In the piece, Leswing goes on to write about an ultra-premium headset from a Finnish company called Varjo:

Last year, Varjo released the XR-3, which offers full-color, low-latency passthrough mixed reality. It’s expensive, heavy, and aimed at businesses. It costs $6,495 to purchase or about $1,500 to rent it for a year.

In playing around with the XR-3, I felt less isolated than with other VR headsets.

I could access a virtual world with the press of a single button, and I could pull up games that took over my entire field of view. I could use virtual computer monitors displaying Windows applications inside the virtual world.

This category of headset, not the Meta Quest line, is what Apple will be knocking out. A state-of-the-art mixed reality headset for $3,000 with deep Apple ecosystem integration will eat this company for breakfast. Apple’s almost 10x price over the Meta Quest 2 looks generous next to the Varjo XR-3. This is very much like how the Apple Pro Display XDR can cost $7,000 yet be competitive with reference monitors that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Yet Apple will still want to get its headset onto as many heads as possible. Even with a cheaper model rumored for the future, Apple could take a page from the Varjo playbook to make Reality Pro more accessible to consumers.

As Kif Leswing reported, Varjo sells headsets outright while also leasing headsets through a subscription service. Leasing is already expected to be a model from Apple for selling iPhones. Could the same approach make the headset more appealing to consumers?

Think about it. If the technology advances quickly over the next several years, leasing for a fraction of the total cost could be best for early-adopter consumers who want to stay up-to-date on VR and AR technology.

There will be lots of ways to make Reality Pro more affordable. Installment plans, financing, selling your non-vital organs. Regardless of whether or not we hear about a subscription option for Reality Pro on Monday, leasing is definitely an option Apple should consider when selling the premium XR headset.

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