Spatial Computing Battle Lines Have Been Drawn, Alliances Are Forming

By Anshel Sag, Patrick Moorhead - April 7, 2024

Since Apple’s announcement of the Vision Pro headset, many companies have begun to circle their wagons for spatial computing so they can address the market in one way or another. While the alliances are still being established, we are already starting to see some concrete partnerships being put in place to claim certain territory. Some players have decided to be neutral parties, either as a function of their business model or because they never had any market position or else have completely ceded their market position. Some of the biggest companies in the world are getting involved in the spatial computing and XR space, and it will only get more interesting as people realize that XR is most powerful when paired with AI—and in my experience is the best interface for AI.

Apple And Sony

The first major alliance is Apple’s partnership and deep engagement with Sony to develop displays for the Vision Pro. The Apple Vision Pro is a magnificent feat of engineering, especially when you consider the resolution of its displays and how good they look. I have already talked at length about the Vision Pro’s strengths and weaknesses in a long review, but there is no doubt that the Sony displays inside the device are one of its greatest achievements and enable the high-quality experience that people expect from a $3,500 headset. Apple is also partnered closely with game engine company Unity, which makes sense considering the legal battle that Apple had with Unity’s biggest competitor Epic Games over the App Store. I do believe that this has been detrimental to app development for Vision Pro, given that the Unity development environment is the default for VisionOS right now. Many developers prefer Epic or other game engines that are not anywhere near as optimized for VisionOS as Unity; this makes development harder for non-Unity devs.

Sony And Siemens

Sony is both a component supplier and a headset manufacturer in its own right, which puts the company in an interesting position compared to many of its competitors. Sony uses its own micro-OLED display technology in both its PSVR headset and its newly announced Spatial Content Creation System, which features a mixed-reality headset that appears to be similar to the PSVR. Sony specifically mentions its 4K OLED micro displays as a major feature of the headset, and we can only assume that these are similar to the almost-4K displays in the Vision Pro. The Sony headset also features Qualcomm’s latest XR2+ Gen 2 platform, which was specifically designed for running 4K OLED displays. Sony launched this headset in an exclusive partnership with Siemens, announcing that it would use Siemens Xcelerator as the software to drive the headset. Siemens is a very big player in enterprise software for 3-D design and engineering, so I believe that this is a strong partnership. However, it may constrain the initial capabilities of this headset if it is limited to only Siemens software, considering that there are many other professional visualization applications that would benefit from such a headset.

Google And Samsung

Samsung and Google announced their partnership to build an XR headset at Samsung Unpacked in January 2023. However, since then we have heard almost nothing in terms of details, other than that the headset will use Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 platform for XR. Samsung already missed out on CES and MWC to announce this headset, but perhaps it is continuing to refine the design and software with Google, who will hopefully help Samsung optimize the software experience. While Samsung sees itself as the biggest competitor to Apple, it still very much must contend with Meta, which has dominated the market since the release of the Quest 2 headset in 2020.

Meta And LG

Rounding out the big players is Meta, which has the most recent major partnership announcement. LG announced a partnership with Meta to create “next-generation extended reality experiences,” which vaguely means that LG is likely to supply many of the components and manufacturing for Meta’s XR devices. This was somewhat of an open secret for months until it became official on February 28. LG also appears to be interested in adopting Meta’s AI technologies and capabilities for its own products, which could be a good thing for LG.

What About Microsoft?

As far as everyone in the industry is concerned, Microsoft’s XR strategy centers on getting its existing apps into other companies’ spatial computing platforms. For instance, users can use Word, Excel and PowerPoint on both Meta Quest and Apple Vision Pro. I’ve used both, and the Vision Pro versions seem a bit more polished. Microsoft also has its Mesh immersive 3-D technology, which entered general availability in January. Mesh aims to empower collaboration through apps such as Teams or in custom Mesh spaces. Mesh is already available on the Quest store, and it seems like Microsoft wants Mesh to become the default for enterprise collaboration in virtual spaces. I believe that Microsoft’s software-only approach will make it beholden to the platform owners, which is something that the company tried to avoid with its Windows Mixed Reality and Hololens platforms. Microsoft’s significant cuts last year effectively killed most of its hardware and platform efforts in the space—and open-sourced its XR toolkit MRTK.

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The Market Evolution Yet To Come

This short overview is intended to provide context for the current set of alliances that are in place; stay tuned for a much longer, comprehensive “state of spatial computing” analysis that I’m working on now. I believe we will see even more partnerships and alliances, but these are the clearest ones we can see today. As the AR space heats up, we will likely see the list of participants—and partnerships—grow, but we are in an early phase of the spatial computing market now that Apple has launched AVP and is challenging the incumbents. Ultimately, Apple’s entry into the market has not only validated spatial computing’s legitimacy, but also awoken competitors to their weaknesses and forced them to respond and improve—or at least try to.

Anshel Sag
VP & Principal Analyst| Website| + posts

Anshel Sag is Moor Insights & Strategy’s in-house millennial with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry. Anshel has had extensive experience working with consumers and enterprises while interfacing with both B2B and B2C relationships, gaining empathy and understanding of what users really want. Some of his earliest experience goes back as far as his childhood when he started PC gaming at the ripe of old age of 5 while building his first PC at 11 and learning his first programming languages at 13.

Patrick Moorhead
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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.