On a recent trip to Europe, Apple (AAPL -3.67%) CEO Tim Cook sat down with Dutch online media company Bright to discuss the future of technology. In the interview, Cook downplayed the importance of the Metaverse, instead touting Apple’s focus on augmented reality (AR). Cook said that one day we will “all look back and reflect on how we once lived without AR”.
Meanwhile, Nvidia (NVDA -8.03%) spent an entire week at its biannual GTC event for tech developers, and the Metaverse consumed much of the time. In fact, CEO Jensen Huang talks a lot about the metaverse and how it will shape the future.
What’s going on here in the name of metaverse originator Neal Stephenson? These debates about what the Metaverse really is and what it will do are getting silly. Not to mention the confusion for investors, not to mention the everyday consumer, who is already overwhelmed by the rapid changes the world has undergone in recent years.
What is the metaverse anyway?
If you search the web for “What is the Metaverse?” you will get as many variations on the answer as you click on an article (including one from yours truly). But let Jensen Huang settle this once and for all. In his keynote at GTC 2022, he provided perhaps the simplest and most elegant definition yet: the metaverse is “the 3D Internet”.
I really appreciate this description. Rather than trying to reinforce this notion that the Metaverse is confusing and no one wants it (as Cook did in the interview mentioned above), Huang breaks it down in simple terms. If a web service or application you use has a three-dimensional element, let’s just call it “the metaverse.”
Cook’s comments on AR are perhaps the best clue we have that Apple is preparing some sort of device, possibly AR or virtual reality (VR) headsets (maybe – there will be an announcement in 2023). But if we see the Metaverse through Huang’s simple take, Apple is getting involved in the Metaverse as well, whether it likes it or not. AR and VR apps will be web-based, and many AR apps are already available on Apple’s App Store. I call it as I see it: Apple Metaverse.
It’s all marketing! Elementary my dear Watson.
If you’re still with me, let’s get to this question: why are all the tech CEOs disagreeing about what the metaverse is and what kind of future it will have? If the Metaverse is just a 3D representation of the Internet, a technology that we use every day and that we can absolutely agree has a well-established definition, why attract attention by bashing it? Or promote the metaverse as if it’s this shiny new thing that’s built from scratch?
It’s simple: marketing.
Like any good “walled garden” company, Apple has a vested interest in undermining other companies’ tech efforts while defending its own. After all, why would Apple use such a term when Meta (META -4.04%), formerly Facebook, literally changed its name to a contracted form of “metaverse” to indicate its future as a 3D web application? Apple has gone to great lengths to try to weaken Meta’s (ahem, Facebook) hold on its iPhone users’ data.
In contrast, like any good “platform” business model that helps others create their own technology, Huang is inclusive and touts how the metaverse can mean different things to different consumers and businesses. Hence the term “Omniverse” for its new cloud-based collaboration and development apps.
If you’re a video game company, the metaverse might mean immersive 3D gaming. If you are a manufacturing company, the metaverse can mean a virtual recreation of your factory used for planning purposes. And if you’re a medical school, the metaverse might mean an AR app that trains students to practice medicine.
One day, hopefully soon, we can all agree to call the 3D extension of the internet the same thing. Maybe it will be “the metaverse”, maybe it will be something else (like “3D Internet” or, I don’t know, maybe just “Internet”).
But one thing is certain: this thing we are discussing is already here, and new capabilities using 3D virtual content are being developed. Any difference you hear in what all of this is and what it means from the perspective of various CEOs is just marketing to prepare us to buy into it.
Now is the time for you, the investor, to decide which companies you prefer to capitalize on 3D virtualization. For my part, I think Apple and Nvidia both are very good bets.
Randi Zuckerberg, former director of market development and spokesperson for Facebook and sister of Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a board member of The Motley Fool. Nicholas Rossolillo and his clients hold roles at Apple, Meta Platforms, Inc., and Nvidia. The Motley Fool holds positions and recommends Apple, Meta Platforms, Inc. and Nvidia. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: $120 long calls in March 2023 on Apple and short calls $130 in March 2023 on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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